First up, let’s talk about the Inauguration!
What a day! So wonderful to celebrate America’s first female Vice President, first African American Vice President, first Caribbean American Vice President and first Asian American Vice President! I wore my pearls on Wednesday while teaching in honor of Madame Vice President, Kamala Harris, and was able to share this historic day with my students–with a very different outcome than the Wednesday we had shared two weeks earlier, when there was an insurrection at our Nation’s Capital.
I spent time during President Joseph Biden’s Inaugural speech thinking about how many similarities there are to what is going on currently and 12 years ago when President Barack Obama made his inauguration speech. At that time we were in the Great Recession, after the real estate market collapsed and unemployment was so high. The auto companies had to be bailed out and we were at war in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, we are at war with a pandemic that has killed 400,000 people so far in the US, 2.06 million worldwide. Unemployment is so high and cabin fever is impacting everyone. The Biden Administration has its hands full! But just like there was plenty of hope in President Obama’s speech, there was also plenty of hope in President Biden’s.
I also thought about how challenging the past 4 years have been in this country, with the previous administration’s constant Tweets, lies, and sowing of division that took place. That sowing of division wasn’t just in the administration, it was also in the constant borage of the news media–on both sides. I was never so grateful as I was to listen to the first Biden press briefing on Wednesday night with White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki, and how calm, professional, and wonderfully low key (kinda boring) the whole thing was!!
Had to also reflect on the resistance I felt compelled to be a part of during these past 4 years. The Women’s March on January 21, 2017 was such an inspirational event! Driving to Washington, DC with my sister and niece and being able to stay with one of my dear friends, was so wonderful, as was the experience of being at the March, itself.
I didn’t realize that I would also be marching and participating in so many PEACEFUL protests! The 2018 Women’s March in Chicago, the spring 2018 March For Our Lives, the Chicago Teachers Union 2019 Strike, and one of last summer’s Black Lives Matter marches were all incredibly moving experiences.
And frankly, teaching itself during this time has been an act of resistance. Trying to teach students how to analyze and interpret sources, to look for bias, to work for consensus and compromise, and to look at the world through multiple lenses has been challenging, but so necessary.
Unfortunately, simply being a teacher is forcing many of us in education to pursue acts of resistance for our students, our families and ourselves when districts are bringing teachers and students back into buildings before safety measures and protocols are in place. I’ve been wearing ‘union red’ for education a lot so far in 2021 (notice my picture above). CPS teachers had to take a strike vote this week–that we would continue to work remotely, but would only return to buildings when adequate safety measures and an agreement were in place. This is not a decision that anyone takes lightly and is exhausting on so many levels (think multiple meetings, discussions, social media chats, fear, stress, etc.). No word yet as to the final results, but I’m sure we will find out what they are by our all member town hall meeting tonight.
I started the week knowing that my dear former high school teacher, Mrs. Thompson, was in a hospice facility and that she didn’t have long of this world. If we weren’t in a pandemic, I would have gone in to Michigan to visit and say goodbye. Obviously that didn’t happen and so she and her family were very much on my mind as I watched Wednesday’s Inauguration.
During Amanda Gorman’s reading of her beautiful inaugural poem “The Hill We Climb“, I found out that Mrs. Thompson had passed late Tuesday evening via a message from her husband. I find this especially profound. Mrs. Thompson always taught us both the tough stuff AND that which was less heavy and whimsical, that artists and writers see not only the hardships in life, but also the beauty, humor, and grace. In the midst of this amazing reading, I learned that Mrs. T. had passed, but also that she had been “greeted by a gathering of souls on the other side as she flew free.”
In the pain of this poem, there is also light. In the pain and stress of this week, there can also be joy and lightness.
One of my favorite former colleagues, an artist who teaches art, Kathleen Tieri Ton, created this wonderful piece below in recognition of Amanda’s inaugural poem and I think it symbolizes Mrs. Thompson’s influence on the lives of myself and so many others.
The tributes to Mrs. Thompson rolled in on social media this week and it was so cool to see how many of her former students became teachers, writers, poets, and artists. I truly appreciate the special conversations I’ve shared with former classmates this week, as well.
It also tickled me to realize just how many of the people who liked my Inaugural Day FB photo (above) were former students of mine. I guess I’m carrying it forward.