Delaney Tarr, a survivor of the recent mass shooting, is an eloquent teenage spokesperson for ending gun violence Source: washingtonpost.com
In a previous life, I was a high school principal for four years. It was the hardest job I ever loved and the part I loved most was high school students. I valued their honesty and passion for life. Recently we have witnessed high school students speaking out to make changes in gun violence. This has reminded me of a time in my principalship when students rose to the occasion. I am sharing with you an excerpt from one of my books Speak Softly and Carry Your Own Gym Key: A Female High School Principal’s Guide to Survival.
“After taking the heat for outlawing prayer at graduation, the school board decided to allow prayer at graduation if it was student initiated, student written, and student delivered in a nonsectarian, nonproselytizing manner. As an Episcopalian principal in the Bible Belt, I often found myself in sympathy with those students and parents who did not hold to conservative religious views. As luck would have it, the first year of the new board policy allowing prayer at graduation, the senior class president was Hindu. He came to me because a student approached him about having prayer at graduation, and, as class president, he had the burden of initiating the vote of the senior class. If the vote was favorable, the formation of a student committee to write the prayer would be his responsibility. A talented, caring young man, he was overwhelmed with the charge. ‘Dr. Hicks (my previous name),’ he said, ‘I thought all I had to do for graduation was welcome the audience and design the senior T-shirt.’ My response was,’ it’s hard for me, too. We’ll go through it together.’
He rose to the occasion. The senior class sponsor worried and agonized. I reminded her that the kids would take care of it. All would be well. A Jewish student came forward threatening to challenge the legality of the board policy allowing prayer. He called the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union but could not generate much interest in the case. In the end, he joined the committee to write the prayer and pronounced their efforts nonsectarian and nonproselytizing. He still made headlines in the state, claiming religious harassment in his homeroom. Our office was flooded with phone calls. One elderly lady called to say that she was praying for me and the school. I told her I needed all the prayer she could muster.
Kids take care of things. The senior class elected an African American student to deliver the prayer. The prayer itself, though never equal to the eloquence of King James English, was a sincere expression of praise and thanks to family, friends, school, and a higher power. Because school board policy required the advice and counsel of the principal, I simply edited the prayer for grammar, changing none of the sentiments. Graduation went well. Lightning didn’t strike. And once again, the students solved their own problems.
Educators who discount and dismiss the insight and value of the opinions of adolescents in their school experience lose sight of a precious resource. The innocence and idealism of youth, combined with their healthy skepticism of adult actions and decision, can guide and direct us if we will only listen. We are not always able to give adolescents what they think they need. We are capable, however, of valuing their worth and their being. May I never live to believe otherwise.” (p.27-28)