Just When You Think…

Photo by Peter Harrison

“We learn not in the school, but in life.”          ~Seneca~

The quote above speaks to me in a personal way. So much so that I think that when my wife and I named our first-born, we should have chosen Seneca, rather than Peter. Though the epic stubbornness of his biblical namesake does seem appropriate enough to describe our not-so-young boy.

Our son is a very practical, logical and articulate young man who has lots of questions and is not afraid to ask them and cares not to whom he directs these questions. His schooling years are best represented as a roller coaster, with his disposition entirely based on how ‘real’ (his word) the learning environment is. As you can predict, his mother and I have been in the coaster car with him for over 10 years, up and down and around, often screaming.

For a young man who has such an ambivalent relationship with school~ recently he expressed that we could ask for “high marks or no lates, but not both”~ the events of the past few days have been a little world-rocking for him. One of his friends, after a life-long battle, passed away, leaving an immediate wake of tears and despair for all who knew him, our son included.

After a phone call to his dad, Peter headed off to school to be with his friends and the caring adults who work there. And, with his friends, they mourned in all the ways that we mourn a great loss. It’s hard to see the rangy, restless young men who occupy your kitchen and empty your pantry reduced to the little boys you remember from kindergarten, but life has a way of doing that.

I’m grateful to the staff at our town high school, Keswick High School and the many among my colleagues who left their schools to support as members of our district’s Tragic Events Response Team. Mostly, I’m grateful to Bruce Richard, the Student Success Teacher (and hockey coach) at KHS for the way he helped support my son and his rangy friends as they tried to process the difficult reality that they had lost their dear friend.

Just when you think schools are failing,  just when you think we  are losing our sense of why public schools are so essential, or just when you think, as a parent, your child has lost his sense of why school matters; life jumps out at and reminds you. School is not where we learn about ‘life’, for our kids and the adults who work with them; school is life, or at least, a big part of it.