Day 28: A Shocking Disappointment

I thumbed through page after page of reflections and apology letters.  I felt the heat rising from my stomach into my face as I read line after line.

“I thought it was a game.”

“I didn’t know what was happening, then I saw people do the Mockingjay sign so I did it too.”

“I didn’t know what the paper was about, I just put my name on it.”

“I didn’t think.”

Over and Over and Over.  I couldn’t believe eyes.  “They haven’t learned anything,” I thought.  Empty words on torn paper.

In this world your signature means everything.  It is your mark.  It is the sign that you believe, support, agree, and consent to something.  How on Earth could you put your signature on something you didn’t read or know what it was for?  Why did no one even bother to ask what they were agreeing to?  Protesting against?  Who was this paper really intended for?  Mother Nature?  Because that’s who made it rain today.  Rain before the riot happened.

I thought of John Hancock signing the Declaration of Independence so boldly that he would be remembered for it for years to come.  It doesn’t look like much.  It’s just an old document right?  No.  It was a the boldest move that could be made, to stand up against a government that you didn’t believe in and say STOP!  Then men who signed that paper risked their lives.  If the colonies had lost the war it would have meant certain death.  Signing your name is not a game.

Did they even read the Hunger Games?  Do they even know what that symbol is intended to mean?  It is a sign of revolution against a government so desperate to control its people, so determined to hoard resources so that a few can live in excess while others starve, that they send children to fight to the death.  The death.  That symbol became something because despite being tossed into an area where it was kill or be killed Katniss befriended a little girl, perhaps the weakest one there.  In spite of a horrific situation she did what was right and she too stood up against that government.  That symbol is not a game.

What happened yesterday was not a game.  And what is it with these “group games” that so many letters mentioned.  That it’s normal for people to just join in and play along without asking: Why?  What are we doing this for?  Who might this hurt?

Why is it that so many stood by and watch this happen?  I read so many empty words yesterday because so many people seemed to think that it wasn’t their fault.  But if you don’t stand up for what’s right, it’s your fault.

Why is it that so many think that because they were angry, or disappointed, or that everyone else was doing it, that it was okay to make a loved and trusted teacher and someone who is my friend feel so bad?  That was not a game.

In 1933 a man took power in Germany.  The people were angry.  Life was hard and someone needed to be blamed.  So in anger many joined or stood by and watched as he and his army systematically destroyed peoples lives.  It started with speeches, it started with anger, it started with names signed on papers, and it started with symbol of one arm held high in the air.  The German people probably had many different thoughts about what happened but the one thing that was certain is that very few stood up for what was right and, as a result, millions lost their lives.

So I hope my students think about that the next time they decide to join a game or sign a paper or start a protest.  What exactly are we protesting here?  What am I joining?  Who am I standing up for?  What do my actions say about what I believe?  There are so many causes worth placing that energy into.  So many people in need that would benefit from the power of the group I saw yesterday, but instead it was misguided because they were mad that they didn’t get to go out for recess because it rained.  And I am left wondering why, why so many joined and stood by.  Will these Bystanders learn to be Upstanders?



Categories: Uncategorized | 11 Comments

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11 thoughts on “Day 28: A Shocking Disappointment

  1. Wow, I am sorry for what happened yesterday. It sounds awful and hurtful and actually rather scary. I hope there will be some good learning from it, & it seems that you have started in that way. Best wishes for you helping your colleague.

  2. It sounds like your students have the opportunity to learn a powerful lessons. Signing your name and taking a stand does mean something. Their words and actions do have power that they are responsible for.

  3. Wow, that really is an unfortunate. However, you’re writing here on unbelievable. How you weave the Hunger Games symbol with so many other symbols of importance is really superbly done. So glad I stopped by!

  4. I know that this was a lesson they will remember forever. I remember that I put on a black armband on my arm in high school, without thought or knowledge. It was also the reason basically that they gave…everyone is doing it! Those are famous last lines that many of us have regretted during our life.

  5. Katie, you are so eloquent. Your emotions come through so clearly. A powerful lesson for your students.

  6. Wow, this IS so eloquent – I echo Elsie’s comment above! This is like a history, literacy, and ethics lesson all rolled into a couple beautifully written paragraphs. I don’t know how young or old these kids are, but maybe they don’t understand the power of a signature or of agreeing with group thinking, even when maybe you don’t. Maybe they need the lesson from you.

    • Indeed Dana and I this will guide my instruction for the next few weeks. These children will know what it means if it kills me. : )

  7. Wow – sounds like a dangerous game, indeed! How lucky they have you to make them stop and think about what their signatures mean. This is an excellent slice. I hope you share it with them.

  8. What a powerful post. Your students will remember and hopefully be moved to do what is right next time.

  9. Not sure what set this off, Katie – but you’ve made a powerful case for the other side of teaching: the hard stuff that makes our kids better human beings.

    • They were disappointed because it started to rain and they couldn’t go out for recess. We’ve had a lot of talk about the power of a group and this is just the start. I’ll be working on some serious social justice learning with this group and hopefully redirecting this powerful energy towards something that is really powerful.

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