Tonight my wife and I were awakened around 12:30 by the cries of our 10 month old son. His late night cries are nothing new, but tonight we both felt the need to offer him an added sense of comfort. Earlier this evening we had to take Sebastian to the Emergency Room for a potential eye injury. He and I were playing with one of his cousins toys this afternoon when he fell forward and hit his eye on either a piece of plastic or metal. Fears of blindness and permanent damaged flooded my mind and we quickly rushed him to the hospital. In order to assess any injury to his eye, the doctor had to add some dye to it. While the doctor looked into my son’s eye, a nurse had to restrain and immobilize him, which caused a great deal of stress and frustration for Sebastian. He screamed in fear as his eyes filled with tears and his tiny arms were pinned to his side. I could see the sadness on my wife’s face as our son let out gasping cries as these strangers restricted his movement and shone obtrusive lights in his eyes. Fortunately, after a brief exam, the doctor advised us that his cornea was not scratched and my son was returned to the safety of his mother’s waiting arms.
My wife and I were both incredibly relieved that our son would not have to suffer any more trauma or discomfort. We thanked the doctor and as the three of us made our way to our vehicle I put my arm around Jenny. She told me she loved me and was thankful that we always had each other, no matter what difficulties we may face in life. As new parents we are learning first hand that parenthood is hard! Despite the exhaustion and moments of extreme frustration, the hardest part about being a parent is the overwhelming amount of love we have for our son. We want the best for him, and we want to protect him from all of the potential dangers and cruelties this world has to offer. I think about all of the things I want to teach my son as he grows up, and I am excited for each moment and opportunity I will have to do so. As a teacher, I have started saving different articles and activities and thinking about creative ways I can review them with my son as he grows – even if I have to wait five years for him to be old enough to understand.
Before I went back to sleep tonight, I took a quick glance at Facebook and noticed one of my friends had posted a video titled: “Chaos on a Bus in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania.” The video depicts young children, most likely elementary school kids, acting out on a school bus. The use of profanity was constant and obviously a regular part of their vernacular. The students were shouting at the bus aide and the bus driver. Some of them shoved the aide and continually insulted her verbally and the police had to be called. The video is appalling and infuriating. I can understand why some of the comments I read called for a return of corporal punishment. Had that been my mother being shoved and berated on the bus, I would have had a difficult time staying calm.
Unfortunately, this video is nothing new to me. This video is a part of my daily life because I am a teacher. I am a special education teacher and I teach in urban schools. These are the students who populate my classroom. These are the children who cause me a great deal of fear because they threaten my son’s future. As a parent, I want to homeschool my child. I do not want Sebastian to know such cruelty and hatred. I do not want his innocence to be exposed to the horrific sadness that is infecting so many children in our schools. I want to move my family to a small town in the country and protect them from all things bad. I want to take the time to teach my son the lessons I have been preparing without the fear of disruption from violent children. I do not want Sebastian on a school bus. I do not want him in a violent classroom. As his father, I am scared for him.
At the moment, homeschooling my son seems like the best option. But that will not change the greater problem we are facing. It will not prevent my son from encountering these children at some point in his life. No matter where we go or where we live, there will come a time when my son encounters children of this nature because the culture of violence and carelessness is spreading like a plague. These violent children, however, are victims. The foul mouthed child who continually called the aide a “bitch,” is a victim. The child who pushed the aide is a victim. All of the children on that bus, and in the entire school, are victims. They are victims of a failed system that goes beyond those students’ respective classroom teachers. Their school has failed to provide them with adequate supports to cope with such intense emotional needs, but I do not blame the school. The state has cut millions of dollars from our educational budgets and we are now starting to see the ugly manifestations of those budget cuts. I promise you, it is only going to get worse unless we act to bring about change. That change will not come from the government. It will not come from elected officials. It must come from us.
But what about the parents? How could they possibly raise such violent and aggressive children? How could they allow something as beautiful and innocent as my son to turn into something so vile and dangerous? Maybe they are victims, too. Maybe a system failed them or enabled a lifestyle of dependency through welfare and other government programs. Maybe the parents are not able to be home with their kids because they have to work two or more jobs in order to keep a roof over their heads. There are numerous causes for the parents’ failures, and there is clear evidence that we have a serious problem in our schools and in our homes. But what are we doing about it? Regardless of who is at fault, the only way to bring about change and save our children’s future is to accept the burden that has been unjustly thrust upon us and change it together.
As individuals, we often feel powerless to bring about change. We don’t believe we can make a difference in this world because we are but one voice among millions. But what if all voices spoke in unison? What if we all acted together as one? The impact would be felt. Let us focus on the things we can control. It is not going to be easy, but we need to be aware of the world we are creating for our future. Make time for your children to build meaningful relationships. Get to know their teachers and network with other parents. Create online groups so all parents can communicate and address the needs of all children together, outside of school. Build a community of caring! Adopt a philosophy of helping and working to solve a problem instead of arguing and fighting to get even. Work together! We are not alone, and this problem will not go away. The education of our children will have a direct impact on the future of every single American, whether you are a parent or not. Think about your daily actions and interactions. Are you living by the values you hope to instill in your children? Are you helping to create a world you want your children to live in? If not, let us work together to make the change. Small steps can cover vast distances. Let’s do it together.
Each night, as I read my son a story before bed, I envision a future of peace and happiness. I picture him smiling and coming home from school excited about the things he learned. I am fighting as hard as I can to help create that future. But I cannot do it alone. I need your help and hope you will join me. Change starts with you.