George Pepper Middle School. This place is full of anger.
I've never seen so many people so angry so often.
Some of these students, and I exaggerate not, spend more time in a state of anger than they do in normal stability. And nearly every student, even my best ones, have at least a couple of angry outbursts on any given day. I break up fights and near-fights every single day. I de-escalate verbal boxing matches every fifteen minutes (depending on the class....maybe every minute). Every day I sit in my room and pray for peace to fill it, to surround my kids.
I'll continue to wrestle with what makes these kids so angry, what has created this culture of hostility.
But what I'm also saddened by is the anger of my colleagues. Until you've spent significant time immersed in a place like this, it's easy to understimate how difficult it is to resist letting the hostility and anger infect your core. At the end of each day, I feel like I'm the only adult in the building who can still muster a smile. Every person I pass on my way out is nearly mute with the exhaustion of fighting this battle, not against the kids but against the culture.
We don't realize that we are in fact simmering in this stew of anger and violence, immersed and cooking and soon coming to a boil.
Yesterday my heart broke for my friend who was hired with me. A few weeks ago, she was peaceful, normal. After the school day ended yesterday, I swung by her room ready to crack some jokes (man they were good too...) but found someone literally red with anger. Even having to fiddle with the lock on the door had her ready to strangle the nearest person (which was me....I don't think she noticed me inching slowly backward).
I felt like I was in a zombie movie. Every day we've been fighting our way through all these angry kids, trying not to let it get to us. I couldn't help but look at my friend and think, "Oh no...not you too."
Campaigns for peace overseas are everywhere. The news talks about it. Bumper stickers display it. People pray for it. Never before have I understood the gravity, the essential nature of peace for our survival as I do now. We don't just need to pray that bombs aren't being dropped. We need to pray for people who every day have their peace stolen from them, in Iraq or in a bare-looking middle school in southwest Philly.
Without peace, we're sick.