Saturday, January 12, 2008

Conversation with a new friend.

I've made a new friend through Safe Schools Coalition. I haven't met her, but we have been having a conversation through email that I want to share.

She's sixteen years old, and she describes herself as "a realistic, radical, feministic lesbian". I think she is quite amazing and I'm honored to be included in her world.

Here it is with what she wrote in red, edited a bit to protect her identity and her privacy:

I talked with Mr. ***** (the principal at her school) today about 10 minutes ago and we talked about getting me on the climate committee here at school. He asked me to bring in a few people I know that would be willing to talk about what's going on at our school. Like what things are good an what are bad. Something tells me though that it's not going to matter. No matter how much we beg and plead for recognition or the time of day we don't really get it. Mr. ***** is wonderful and all as a principal and I understand there's only so much that he CAN do but I don't know. I was just expecting more...
I know its frustrating. But everything you do counts - even if it feels small and even if you don't see that it affects folks. Sometimes we don't see it, but it does have an impact. The changes aren't fast but they do happen. Every heart and mind you crack into and get your toe in to make someone stop and think can go out and do something too - or at least feel something different than they would if you are silent. At least thats how I do it. I hope it makes sense. I wrote this
Everyday Out with my friend Catherine back in the dark ages (1997) and it talks about that.
I realize that you're right Mrs. Clayton, I really do but sometimes it's just hard to deal with problems in our school ...
and a little later:
Mrs. Clayton can I ask you a question?
Please call me Gabi.

Sure. I'll try to answer.
:) Okay. Gabi, I was wondering why our school system doesn' t take our concerns seriously?
That's a big one.

"our school system" is looking at a big picture and maybe too big.

Officially the system 'cares' about the things I think you are referring to as concerns - harassment, hate, abuse, neglect, etc. but that's what it does on paper because its a system, not people.

When you look at specific people and ask 'Why don't you take our concerns seriously?' then you will get a whole variety of answers - everything including:

I do care and this is what I am doing.
I do care and this is what I am trying to do.
I do care and I don't know how to do something about it.
I do care and I am powerless to do anything.
I used to care and I am burned out or overwhelmed so I am not doing anything now.
I didn't know.
I don't care because it's not my job.
I don't care because it's not my responsibility.
I don't know how to care.
I don't want to know.
I just don't care.
etc.

And there are plenty of all of those folks out there. The trick is to find the ones who you can connect with who are doing or want to or maybe know they should but don't know how and work with those. And use 'the system' (i.e. the rules and laws like the safe schools bullying law, the abuse laws, and the malicious harassment laws) to make the rest of them do what they are supposed to do whether they like it or not.

All the while, you take care of yourself and each other.

Then you win some and you lose some - or you win part of something and sometimes you get surprises - positive ones and negative ones.

And then you rest up and play and start all over.

How's that for an answer?

1 comment:

SteveSchalchlin said...

Gabi, I love the advice you've given this young woman. I used to tell the
kids trying to get into the music biz that a "company" can't do anything. Only a person can do something. A "company" is not alive. It's a structure. But the right person working within that structure can do miracles if they are smart, gentle and insistent.