This month’s Rebuilding for Learning Blog Post features an article that you may have read in the La Crosse Tribune this past fall. The author, Rick Blasing, issued “A Call to Action” after attending the Rebuilding for Learning Summit, and as the school year draws to a close for thousands of students in our area, it is a good time to read this again as we reflect upon the past year – did you answer Rick’s call?
A Call to Action
It’s school picture day at Lincoln Middle/SOTA II/Coulee Montessori. In schools everywhere, it is the season. Students are excited as they line up, waiting their turn to be captured on film. Every hair in place, a pose that has been practiced in the mirror, a desire to be photographed in the most flattering way. It is human nature, something that we all share.
It is also the power and the mystery of the photograph – the mystic of the captured image, a moment frozen in time.
At times it seems that with the technology of the age, we live our lives at a quickened pace. With fleeting images, digital pictures so quickly captured and deleted. And, in some ways, many family conversations have also faded, becoming rapid exchanges in cyberspace that simply cut to the chase.
Sometimes late at night I pause at the photograph in the antique cabinet in our living room. It’s my great-uncle Art looking back at me. He was already advanced in years by this time – sitting proudly, beaming behind the steering wheel of his bright, red Farmall model H tractor. He was in his glory on that machine. He bought it brand new after the war. I took this picture of him in the early 1970’s.
I’m looking at uncle Art in this picture, remembering all that we did together and those many things that he taught me when I was young. I still miss him dearly. I am gazing at him with the knowledge of what events took place since his passing. I am living the future, something that he could only wonder about. Much like the many times that I can remember him looking at me, with a grin, when I was a teen. He was probably thinking of what future events he already knew that I would encounter as a young man about to enter high school. It was only when I reached adulthood that I was able to fully understand the wisdom in his guidance and the impact of his mentorship.
It strikes me, as I watch our students, how quickly time passes and how rapidly they will leave their youth for adulthood. What little time we have as parents and family members to guide and mentor, for teachers to educate and inspire. In some ways, it seems that there is something sorely missing in aspects of our advanced society, a void of guidance and direction for many youth.
I have yet to attend a graduation or school promotion of some kind and not see some teachers with tears in their eyes. It is easy to understand this, for dedicated teachers invest themselves in the lives of those young people in their charge. Educators seek to empower their students with essential knowledge, to ignite within them a zeal to pursue their own goals and dreams in life.
It was during the 4th Annual Rebuilding for Learning LaCrosse Community Summit, held in August at the LaCrosse Center, that more than 200 community members gathered to consider ways to bridge the traumatic experiences of individuals, continuing efforts to counter such barriers to learning in life. Sponsored by LaCrosse County, the City of LaCrosse, and the School District of LaCrosse, attendees considered different approaches to support youth and families by creating a trauma-responsive community.
The keynote speaker, Jim Sporleder, discussed the trauma of adverse childhood experiences and the impact that it can have on individuals throughout their life. He stressed the importance of adult guidance and mentorship of youth, that these young people must have a sense of being valued and connected. Mr. Sporleder observed that “caring adult relationships can change a life”, that “hopelessness can become hope.”
Indeed, for young people, there can exist the trauma of rejection, an emotional trauma of feeling unimportant or irrelevant to those adults in their lives. If not receiving it at home, youth will surely seek affirmation and acceptance elsewhere.
And time marches on.
Yet, the passage of time is not inherently sad and need not be maudlin. The future can and should be exciting, the newness of future opportunity and growth; to be able to marvel at the promise of what our young people may accomplish during their lives.
It should not, however, be the time for us, as parents and adults, to focus primarily on our own hobbies or interests, to be self-absorbed, but rather to put those things behind the most important responsibility – the raising, guiding, and mentoring of our young people. This is a call to action. Parents, guardians, extended-family members – it makes no difference. We must not look back with regret, years later, at opportunities missed.
The nervous smiles on school picture day continue. The photographer continues with his tried & true jokes, to put his subjects at ease. The students are looking forward to sharing their pictures with others – sharing and trading that moment in time with their friends.
A moment in time; that is, in essence, all that we have as parents, as families, as educators to guide and empower our young ones. We must not squander this opportunity, this gift to positively impact the precious life of another.