Embracing Commonalities

As most of you know, my daughter Erica and I moved to Texas in 2009 for college.  Upon her return from College Station in spring 2013, she was a devoted hockey fan.  Her favorite team?  The Chicago Blackhawks.  I have no explanation for this.  In all of her 18 years in West Virginia living within a few hours of both the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburg Penguins, she never once expressed an interest in either team or hockey in general.

However, like the good parent that I am, I jumped on board her hockey bandwagon and seized the opportunity to buy her hockey-related gifts (What do you buy the grown daughter who has everything she needs?  A Chicago Blackhawks jersey, of course!).  One such opportunity arose last Christmas as the Chicago Blackhawks 9th Annual Fan Convention tickets went on sale.  Since she had been drooling over this convention for two years, I bought two tickets for the vacation of her dreams in July (What a perfect Christmas/birthday gift, thought the sly mother).  It also provided me with an excellent way to spend my vacation days.

Many of you, if you’ve stayed with me this long, may be asking where I’m going with this story and what it has to do with professional learning.  Well, by the time we went on this trip, our happy, joyful, Christmas mood had been killed off by the horror that has been the year 2016.  Not only did we lose several talented icons, but we also, as a nation, have been divided on a great many issues.  It appeared as though we were looking for reasons to hate and denigrate one another.  I had recently finished The Freedom Writer’s Diary and had actively been working to promote Gruwell’s visit in September.  Her message, while sobering, was a powerful one about acceptance, making changes, and not letting the evils of the world get you down.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t what I experienced at the hockey convention.  For an event celebrating the fans, the fans were pretty divisive as shown by the following tweets:

hideous-green-sweaters-tweetgreen-sweaters-they-gotta-go-tweetgreen-sweater-wearers-tweet

However, it wasn’t just the color of the jerseys that were an issue (to be fair, the Blackhawk jerseys are red, white and/or black, but they do sell special event jerseys in both purple and green).  The Blackhawks struggled as a team prior to 2007 when new players were acquired.  Since that time, they have gone on to win 3 Stanley Cup championships and have gained many fans.  Imagine being one of those fans who may have flown from Texas to Chicago to enjoy the fan convention and seeing this tweet posted to the convention hashtag:

fan-b-4-07-jersey-tweet

I was more than a bit appalled.  I’m not a big sports fan.  Still, while I know it’s acceptable to rib the fans of other teams, how did it become acceptable to denigrate one’s own fans?  Couldn’t these fans simply enjoy the camaraderie of one another’s company and bask in the success of their team without attempting to separate each other by year of loyalty or jersey color?

I am weary of petty divisiveness.  I hadn’t realized until writing this post exactly HOW weary, especially in our home turf of education.  This starts with us, with you, and with me.  Let’s come together as one body united in learning and worthy academic endeavors instead of squabbling over minutia such as who prefers qualitative vs. quantitative methods, who lectures or does active learning, who has this pedigree or that in their advisors or degree letters.  Only then can we turn our efforts to creating truly inclusive classrooms where our students feel welcomed and invited.  Where our students and faculty will revel in the luxury of learning.

As a first step along this road of embracing our commonalities, I would like to encourage each one of you to attend Gruwell’s lecture on “Becoming a Catalyst for Change” on Tuesday, September 20, at 12:30 p.m. at the VISD Fine Arts Center.  It think that it’s time we started celebrating and embracing what we have in common instead of focusing on how we are all different.

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