The Walkout That Wasn’t Really

The Walkout That Wasn’t Really, originally published on Thornton-Donovan School’s ‘Overlook Journal’, expresses sophomore Grace Kelly Kretzmer’s disappointment with the school and some of its students over how they handled such a solemn event.

Personally, I couldn’t be prouder of Grace and her peers for speaking up about an issue they believe in. I can say that when I was their age, I was not as civically conscious, and this concern shows all the character and maturity that distinguish my students from others. They truly will be the leaders of tomorrow.

Here are Grace’s words:

On March 14, the majority of Thornton-Donovan School’s student body met outside to protest gun violence and honor the 17 students who lost their lives in the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.

“The walkout showed that students at T-D have a fighting spirit, and they deserve further outlines for expression, even those pertaining to issues specific to our school,” said sophomore Jordan Mallach.

However, this is a positive spin. In reality, when asked by multiple teachers, friends, and parents how the walkout went, there was definitely a huge hesitation before answering. The walkout itself was more of a “walk-around,” meaning walking around campus for twelve minutes. Worse, speeches were rushed and cut off before we hit the seventeen-minute mark. Honestly, I’m disappointed with how we handled the subject matter and the walkout itself.

“They should have given us at least a period to do this properly. We would have walked out of T-D and then we could come back and have students speak up,” freshman Mila Mabhongo said.

Participating in huge movements like March for Our Lives and the National School Walkouts should be something I should be proud of, not embarrassed by. It is not a privilege to protest, it’s a right and I’m not sure if that was clear.

The mural in the lobby of Thornton-Donovan School.

“T-D’s walkout definitely could have been organized in a way that would have given more effective message. For one, I think many can agree that it wasn’t a walkout, as nobody left the inside of our campus,” sophomore Antonea Rufa said. “The bare minimum we could have done was walk the 17 minutes; however, we did not even achieve that. Many schools did much more than walk for 17 minutes, and I definitely think that our school should have done more to commemorate the 17 lives we lost.”

Personally, I think we could’ve done so much better. Could some of the students been more supportive and respective? Yes. Could more have made signs and worn orange? Yes. Those things we, the students, should’ve done. It’s a shame to say some students only participated in the walkout to get out of 17 minutes of their second period class and socialize with their friends. While those people complained about being hungry and bored, the students who were one hundred percent dedicated to marching and standing up for the greater good weren’t able to fully enjoy the walkout and its purpose.

But could administration let us walk for the full seventeen minutes? Yes. By walking for only 12 minutes, are we placing a higher value on those 12 lives over the remaining five lives that we didn’t walk for? It seems like it. Was getting back to homeroom and then second period more important than addressing this serious, real topic that is scary and should be mentioned? No. I was back in homeroom by 10:17, and back in second period by 10:18, not 10:20 like planned in the memo. The walkout was treated as if it was a privilege over a right. It felt as if the school was doing the students a favor by letting them participate.

With a serious movement like this, students need support from their teachers and school, which is something we only got from a select few teachers. I can only hope that for April 20th’s walkout, held on the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting, we are more organized and committed, and that we gain more support from the school.

Gun Violence: A Teen’s Voice Is Heard

Originally published on March 26 in Thornton-Donovan School’s Overlook Journal, “Gun Violence: A Teen’s Voice Is Heard” is Editor-in-Chief Quincy Campbell’s call to action. If adults will not confront this alarming trend of gun violence in our country, then it is up to the children – our conscience, or at least what our conscience should be – to stand when others will not:

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced

-James Baldwin

On March 14, Thornton-Donovan joined millions of high school students from around the world partook in a historical 17 minute walk out in memory of the seventeen students who were killed in the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. This was a moment in which together, we as teens proclaimed our fight against gun violence. But for the Overlook Journal, this is only the beginning. It has become too unbearable to stand by and watch as government officials  and voters ponder what our safety is worth. We deserve a say in the matter.

The only way adults can come to a productive solution regarding teen violence is by adding teens in the equation.  This is a problem concerning our lives, and the lives of our friends and siblings. We cannot be excluded from an issue we are involved in. Teens need a voice in this matter, and more importantly, we need an audience.

So for the next two weeks, the Overlook Journal will be releasing a series of articles, written by teens, regarding gun and teen violence. This will provide unique perspectives, insights, and facts in hopes of encouraging you to examine this issue in a teen’s point of view.

We encourage you, the reader, to share your thoughts and feedback on this content, so we can discuss ways on how to make it even better.

-Quincy A. Campbell

Editor and Chief

Throwback Thursday: The Prologue

Throwback Thursday: The Prologue was originally posted at “A Reintroduction: The Prologue” on August 18, 2017. I wrote the prologue of Knowing When You’re Too Young to Grow Up two summers ago on a prep in between summer school classes. I had just recently watched Dead Poet’s Society, and, as I wrote in the September 2, 2014 post “Rediscovering my Protagonist in ‘Dead Poet’s Society'” it inspired me:

Once I was done with the kids (or maybe a bit before), I roughed out a draft where I focused on establishing the narrator’s (and protagonist’s voice). My intention was to draw the audience in by revealing the death of the protagonist’s best friend. The circumstances of his death are shrouded in mystery by design; the last thing I wanted was to paraphrase the story the audience is about to get into.

'Dead Poets Society' Poster via Amazon.com

‘Dead Poets Society’ Poster via Amazon.com

‘DPS’ is the quintessential substitute teacher go-to movie in high school, and it reminded me of the innate sense of rebellion in teenagers that originally inspired (and continues to inspire) ‘Knowing When You’re Too Young To Grow Up’.

The book is so much more than bitching and complaining and belly-aching about the plight of a high school kid whose life is devoid of responsibility and privileged in every way.

While that’s part of ‘Knowing When’, it’s not the whole story. It is the anatomy of teenage angst, from the protagonist’s upbringing to his history with his friends and the secrets they keep from each other to his choices and the consequences they yield.

Prologue:

I killed my best friend, not with a gun or a knife or a car or a bomb or a poison, but he died and I lived and it was all the same in the end.

He didn’t know until it was too late. And I guess I didn’t either at first, failing to consider that my actions could so adversely affect him, could eventually destroy him. But they did. And that’s really the only thing that matters here.

[Read More…]

ICYMI: It Doesn’t Cost Anything To Be Kind

ICYMI: It Doesn’t Cost Anything To Be Kind, originally posted on March 19, 2018, examines how simple it is to be kind to another and how profound of an impact it can have.

I recall the motto my father raised me on and how RJ Palachio’s Wonder reinforced this sentiment.

Tupac Skaur via Biography.com

So, smile at someone, hold the door for them, say thank you, have a pleasant tone, engage in a conversation, be a damn human.

It shouldn’t be so hard.

As Tupac Shakur wrote in “The Power of a Smile”:

The power of a gun can kill

and the power of fire can burn

the power of wind can chill

and the power of a mind can learn

the power of anger can rage inside

until it tears u apart but the power of a smile

especially yours can heal a frozen heart

Throwback Thursday: The Summer Read

Originally posted on August 15, 2017, “The Summer Read” takes readers on an odyssey of reading from this past summer.

Why the hell would I read so much?

Well, I figured it would prove helpful to know the competition for KNOWING WHEN YOU’RE TOO YOUNG TO GROW UP.

Since then, I’ve finished even more books, mostly YA, that you can check out at What’s Andrew Reading?

‘The Way I Used to Be’ by Amber Smith, photo courtesy of Goodreads

The Overlook Journal Speaks

I have to say that the student journalists I oversee at the Overlook Journal continue to impress me with their dedication. While we have effectively gotten students to buy in to writing for the paper, getting school-oriented pieces written has always been a tough sell. Why? Well, at times, the school does not hold exciting events.

However, this year the students have made an effort to cover Student Council events that in the past they might not have. As the kids have grown, they also have found an interest in civic activism. They particularly have focused on the gun violence debate emanating from the survivors of the Parkland, FL, massacre. This has yielded authentic and productive discussions on school safety in their own school and across the nation. They are beginning to ask tough questions of their teachers and administrators, questions about their school’s safety precautions and procedures, questions that every kid of this era must now consider.

More so, they want their voices heard about the school’s apparent lacking response to observing 17 minutes of reflection in solidarity with Parkland. What many here and around the country need to realize is that the voices of children are important and must be valued. On the cusp of adulthood, they are exhibiting what I envisioned for them in adulthood: Questioning existing structures, demanding answers, and formulating solutions.

If only adults could have such foresight or be so productive…

 

It Doesn’t Cost Anything To Be Kind

It doesn’t cost anything to be kind is a motto my father modeled for me in his dealings with people throughout my life.

‘Wonder’ book cover via Barnesandnoble.com

That could be in my dealing with the FedEx worker who needed a light for his cigarette, and we ended up chatting about the degree he just earned and his exploring the possibility of changing careers and becoming a teacher.

Maybe it’s the cup of coffee and the two-hour conversation about my current struggles this year at my job I have with my 84-year-old neighbor whose husband recently passed away.

It could be in my chatting up the convenience store clerk who sells me smokes or in my interacting and making jokes with the gas station employees near my job. Or even just having a pleasant, affable tone with the waitress at the diner.

Kids or adults; rich or poor; black, white, Latino, or something else – does not matter what the distinction is – all humans deserve and require one element, and only one element, to connect with them; that is, dignity. All desire to be respected and valued, not diminished or marginalized.

It’s far too easy to take a condescending tone or put someone down just because you can. I saw enough of that from a select few snobs at Fairfield U. I see plenty of that in my current position with teachers ill-equipped – and, in some case, unqualified – to deal with the next-generation student. So, bridging the gap between groups begins with respect on both sides and an acknowledgment that discussing differences does not divide, but instead brings us closer together. For then we are understanding, not classifying or singling out.

[Read More…]

ICYMI: We’re Getting Old

ICYMI: We’re Getting Old, originally posted on March 7, 2018, is my realization that I’m not 21 anymore. I simply can’t chase the sun like I used to. And I don’t want to. Life is changing all around me – marriage, pets, other people’s kids, your own kids, homeownership, ADULTING.


And I’m okay with that.

Most of it, at least.

Throwback Thursday: I Do Not Like Biographies; However,

Throwback Thursday: I Do Not Like Biographies; However, originally posted on July 3, 2017, explains my fiction reading preferences. Yet, an opportunity one of my students offered me changed my reservations about reading nonfiction, in particular biographies.

I guess you do need a change of pace every once in a while. 

I do not like biographies.

Simply put, I don’t care enough about famous people to want to know their life stories.

Period.

However, I’ve found myself drawn to nonfiction recently, namely a return a Bill O’Reilly’s Killing series and a biography on Brett Favre by the esteemed Jeff Pearlman.

A biography on Brett Favre?

I know, I just said I do not like biographies, but I made an exception for Pearlman’s book, as I received the book as a gift from his nephew, a student whom I teach.

Cover courtesy of Amazon.com

Not one to ever turn down a gift, I opened up to the cover page where I saw an inscription:

Mr. Chapin, give my nephew good grades.

With a smile and a turn of the page, I was reminded of the almost magical realism of Brett Favre. From the aloofness to the sophomoric humor to the cannon arm, the book brought me back to my childhood where I marveled at this bright-eyed, 20-something-year-old guy winning the Super Bowl in my grandparents’ basement.

While I still do not believe that most celebrities of varying degrees are worth reading about, Mr. Pearlman gained a fan in me. I will be a regular consumer of his work and will begin Sweetness as soon as possible. However, as I told my student in an email I sent thanking him:

I remain a bigger fan of his nephew, the youth who thought enough about his teacher to bring him an unsolicited gift – not to kiss up or improve his standing in class, just because.

And that means a lot to me.

Check the What’s Andrew Reading (under the About tab) or simply follow the link for insight into my tastes, as well as reading recommendations for you and your kids. While on the subject my April 10 post “Reading is Cool” applies as well.