I’ll be completely honest. I’m struggling with this.
What do you do when two of your most closely held beliefs come into direct conflict with one another?
We were sitting around the table in the book room, a little wilted from the week. It’s that time of year when our Interventionist and I host each grade level team for a meeting to discuss specific students so we can plan for the upcoming intervention session. For the teachers it’s an hour or two dedicated to the students nearest and dearest to their hearts. It’s a chance to celebrate successes from the past few months and look ahead to new goals, a time to advocate for more, less, or different support to help children over the final hurdles between here and June.
We actually love these conversations. The best moments are when a tentative suggestion meant for one child is scooped up by a team and suddenly we can see the many possibilities it could afford others as well. The sparking and piggy-backing of ideas make these truly collaborative sessions. Eyes alight, shoulders square, breaths soften as we remember we’re in it together and that together we have tremendous capacity.
But by the end of a second full day locked away in the same room, those of us who have been part of every team feel worn. There are sometimes more needs than we can imagine meeting in the ways we’d like. Though, somehow, my partner-in-all-things-good always finds ways to reach those children…sometimes in creative beyond the box ways…always through her own deep commitment.
So in our final team meeting this afternoon, I was already feeling frayed around the edges when a teacher shared her worries about one little girl. These worries go beyond academics. I knew small pieces of the story since this sweet child has been in our school since kindergarten, but today I heard the whole story* for the first time and it crushed me.
I’m even struggling how much to share. I believe wholeheartedly in acceptance and pluralism. I may not agree with your view, but I defend your right to hold it. I admire strong convictions. I’m not particularly religious, but I don’t believe in vilifying any religion. Likely there are more ways to live and observe a single religion than we could imagine. And many have overlapping beliefs and practices that are mostly about being good to one another. I also believe fiercely in every child’s right to an education and self-determination. Girls deserve every opportunity available to any human person. Malala is a hero for speaking out on behalf of girls around the world.
Today those two fundamental beliefs collided. I’m talking a giant asteroids hitting the Earth collision.
Every fiber of my being tells me that this girl child deserves those chances. All my instincts are screaming out in helpless disbelief that this scenario could play out in my community–not halfway around the world, but in the halls I walk every day. “I sound my barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world!”
What can I possibly do? How can I do nothing? What could be done that wouldn’t dishonor her culture and her family? If I dishonor the place (literally and figuratively) she comes from, am I dishonoring her, even as I yearn to free her from it?
Her father has taught her that this is her role and her destiny. I have a hard time accepting that because of what my father taught me. He taught me that I can do anything. That I have as much right and ability as anyone, and enough determination to overcome the odds. He taught me not only that I can shape the world, but that I should. He gave me a voice from the time I was small enough to dance on the tops of his feet. He still amplifies my voice today. In his mind being a girl, a woman, is no impediment.
Is it any different if we both believe the version of the world that our fathers spun for us from infancy? But–oh–how different those worlds are.
*I suppose we can never know the full story unless we live it.