The Walkup Movement is Dangerous as a “Movement”

The walkup “movement” is dangerous.  It’s not dangerous in principle, but it’s dangerous when treated as a “movement,” rather than the way kids should interact with each other at school.

Let me try to explain.

Leaving an encouraging note on someone’s locker would naturally seem like a good thing to do.  And between friends, or between kids who want to become friends, it is of course a good thing.  But this is not what the walkup movement is about.

First, let me back up to my own rancid experience in public school (grade school through High School).  If a teacher had given me 17 blank sticky notes and told me to write something good about 14 students (my god 14 whole students!?) and three faculty members, I wouldn’t have known have had something honest to write on maybe two of them, but the rest I would have just written something generic. I simply didn’t know anyone in school.  I might have kind of known 2, and if I stretched it I might have been able to think of another two names, but all of them would have been loosely defined as friends.  Naturally, my locker wouldn’t have had many notes on it. I would have had a few notes, all from people I knew but didn’t know.  And even if my locker had been covered in notes, I would have known virtually nothing about the students who left them. 

Why?  Because no one talked to me. Ever.  And I was too scared and traumatized from school to try and talk to anyone else.  I felt like I didn’t really exist, or that my existence made people uncomfortable.  In fact, if I’d found a bunch of notes on my locker, I would have been angry.  This should not surprise anyone who suffered through public school the way I did: without friends, terrified of everyone, laughed at, and generally avoided. 

Why angry?  It’s simple, looking at all those notes I would have thought “What, now you act like you care? You barely acknowledge me in the hallway, you ignore me in class, but you’ll say I’m “awesome” on a sticky note and leave it for me to find on my own so you don’t have to actually engage with me?  Yeah, that’s grand.”

*sigh*

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All this ranting has been building up in me all week.  I see posts like the one above on my Facebook feed constantly, and they come from people I actually interact with on Facebook.  People who know me.  And they think this is such a great idea.  I just can’t stand it anymore.

Granted, I went to a public school in the 90s, and don’t know anything about “preparatory High Schools.”  Maybe somehow, everyone magically has friends at these schools, and no one gets bullied or shuffled into social cliques or pushed aside when they don’t fit into one of the molds, as I never fit.  Maybe the school in the picture above is some kind of educational and social utopia.  I doubt it, but who knows.  I am, however, very confident that our public schools aren’t any different today than they were in the 90s.

This isn’t to say that the The Walk Up movement is a bad idea.  It’s a great idea, just not as a “movement,” not as a protest, or as some kind of memorial or social statement.  Bullied, abused, scared, lonely kids, don’t want a random note from someone they don’t know, someone who has made little effort to show any interest in their life. Putting notes on lockers does not help.  In fact, just look at the picture: some lockers have four notes, some a few more, and of course that one locker, always that one locker, that’s plastered with notes.

Think about what this kind of display says to a kid who feels worthless.  No one is saying that the notes are some kind of competition.  The idea was not meant to show you how many notes you would get, compared to the kid a few lockers down.  But competition or not, for the troubled student, it merely illustrates the fact of their own isolation. (again, even if I had gotten four notes on my locker, I would have wondered why these people never said any of this to my face, or why they didn’t think to sit with me at lunch or show any interest in me.)

The danger with the Walk Up movement, ultimately lies in the inevitable demonstration of social status (or lack thereof).  But to be fair, that’s only because it’s being made too public.  It’s being used as a social statement, rather than taught as a daily attitude.  Be a friend to someone. A constant, faithful friend. Stand up for the oddball. Defend the defenseless. Sit with the outcast during lunch and ask about his/her day. Do this every day. Make this part of your personality. Genuinely care about people who are different from you.  Kids appreciate notes from people who have shown that they care.  Fifty sticky notes pasted all over your locker from people participating in a school activity, carries not only little meaning, but sends a confusing and potentially harmful message to troubled students.

SIDE NOTE

Has anyone considered the very likely possibility that those alienated, bullied and abused kids may actually commit suicide rather than bring assault rifles to school and kill a dozen or more people? Maybe the focus of this movement should shift from gun violence to a study into why so many kids commit suicide.

 

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Bedtime Routine

Goodnight mommy Ellee.

Goodnight my Ellee Bell.

I hope your dreams are filled with trees.

And I hope the trees in your dreams
are filled with silk hammocks.

And blue iridescent birds.

And crickets.

Yes, crickets, who play for you.

And also you. A quartet
who play for you too.

Yes mommy, for me and for you.

Yes, my Ellee Bell. They will play,
to drain every bad day away.

Reading to My Daughter

We just started reading “Bridge to Terabithia”.
It’s slow going. She makes me stop
every few pages. to comment on a word
or wonder about the story.
Finally, partway into the second chapter,
she asks “can we stop for today?”
and I say of course.
We are both quiet for a moment.
Then she glances at the closed book and says
“The boy is too much like me.”
“I know,” I say.
Then she climbs into my lap
and before long we are both asleep.

Proof of Life

When my grandmother died and I touched
her knuckles at the viewing, and felt
the still tight tendons and the hair
the less wrinkled forehead and cheeks
and I left and when I was hiding against
the death-building’s brick wall
my eyes and sinuses emptied into my hands
and my body had been demanding her
voice a small breath something like
a touch a bit of warmth a suggestion
that we don’t end we don’t become empty
like a tortoiseshell without a tortoise
A washed up conch shell without the ocean
still speaking inside and when I’d finished
emptying myself into the grass
and the air was still and the evergreens
had stopped rocking and I had stopped
rocking and she was nowhere I knew,
I leaned onto my knees then up onto my feet.
I wiped my face with my shirt
and walked to the parking lot
where people were making plans to eat
and who would ride where with who.
I don’t remember who I saw or what they said.
All I could do was stand still and let my ears fill
with the complex melodies
and continuous beat of the living.

Dogsitting

It’s the end of February and they’ve left
the Christmas tree up. Green lights
blinking a random slow rhythm, the white star
tilting as if tired from standing on top.
I’ve started a load of wash, vacuumed a little
and swept a little. I’ve changed the rabbits softwood
bedding and fed them celery sticks between
brief love-making moments. And Chevelle,
the old dog, shivers on the couch beside me.
Bad joints, excitable, golden animal.
I scratch and rub her ears and say
” you’re such a good girl” and massage the loose skin
along the back of her neck and kiss the flat plateau
of her nose. She gives my chin a lick
and we rub skulls – dog and other dog.
It’s good to be almost one of the animals.
I don’t think they ever forget how long
we’ve been gone, or how often we return.
I’m sure they appreciate the food and shelter
and water we give them. It must be a great relief
knowing there’s no need to scavenge.
But they stay for other reasons.
Right now the rabbits are chasing and mounting
each other. Right now, Chevelle and I lounge
together on the couch. She is still shaking and dozing,
dreaming and waking, her paws jerking
as if startled, then calm. Her nose nudges
towards me and a breath eases from her nostrils.
I place a blanket over her sore bones, the same blanket
my mother crocheted for me only one year ago,
because every creature, no matter how old
needs the comfort of a mother’s blanket.
Every creature lives for that faithful presence,
the breath and smell and familial touch
of that life we’ve come to call our god.

The Rescue Bird

me-umbrella-bird.jpg

I walk into the classroom
where my second grade self sits in her seat
with her face pointing at the desktop
one hand on each little knee.
She had been in the hallway all day.
Another teacher just yelled at her
for lying in front of the classroom door.
Her underwear is filled with shit.
I walk up to her desk and crouch down
to look up at her pink profile.
She sees me. She’s scared.
She doesn’t know what I’m going to do.
I’m crying and choking on the outside,
the therapist’s hand between mine,
but in the vision I’m calm and smiling.
I take her hand between both my of mine,
like an egg embracing its yolk.
I say “You didn’t deserve any of that.”
And her head turns a little as if to be sure
a real person has touched her.
“You don’t have to stay,” I continue.
“Do you want to leave?”
And she’s around my neck with her nose
and open mouth pressed tightly into my shoulder
her legs hooked around my hips.
I lift her out of her desk and we stand for a moment
a single overwhelmed girl.
We are shaking with need and relief.
Then I turn around, with her hanging from my neck
gripping my blouse like a bird in a hurricane.
I turn around without acknowledging anyone else –
not the student in the desk beside hers
or the one behind hers or the one in front
or the other girls staring and crinkle-nosed
or the nearly invisible teacher, frozen
like block of ice to her desk.
I turn around with my little girl
and walk out.
And away.
Far far away.