Tuesday, April 17, 2007

My Virginia Tech Story

Black VT Ribbon When I heard the audio and I saw the images of the Virginia Tech campus yesterday, I burst into tears. My school, my campus, was under attack. I earned a BA from Virginia Tech in June 1984 and an MA in August 1986. I taught in the Virginia Tech English Department for two years as a graduate teaching assistant and for seven years after I earned my MA.

As the images streamed across my computer screen yesterday, I saw buildings that I have been in. I knew people I taught with were in buildings near Norris Hall, and, worse, that my family members were literally across the street from the classroom building and dorm where the attacks took place.

In his Voices from the Middle article “Difficult Days and Difficult Texts,” Bob Probst talks about the value of stories. “Stories,” he tells us, “will save us, if anything will” (50). Right now I am struggling to find the stories. More than anything, I want a story that will take this tragedy and make sense of it.

Writing of the events of September 11, but just as applicable to the shootings in Blacksburg, Virginia yesterday, Probst explains, “Part of the problem with understanding . . . was that we had an event, but didn’t yet have a story. All we had at that point was an image, a happening” (53). The world has an event right now.

No matter how old the students we may interact with this week are, our job as teachers is to help them find the stories:

  • stories of their connections to people on the campus,
  • stories of their own reflections on the events,
  • stories of police and rescue workers who responded,
  • stories of political reactions and implications,
  • stories of the social networks supporting them,
  • stories of the news media’s coverage,
  • stories of their own outrage, sadness, and horror,
  • stories of their fears and where they have found security,
  • stories of how such a thing could happen, and
  • stories of how we all can and must continue on.
As we meet with students and difficult events come up, the most important thing we can do is invite stories and respond to them as empathetic and encouraging readers. As Probst says, “Stories will save us, if anything will.”

2 comments:

theteach said...

I have talked to a couple of people I know who have attended or taught at Virginia Tech and their reactions are similar. The community is a strong and far reaching one. We who are not a part of this community struggle to find words that may console, gestures to show that we care, but we cannot. We may share stories of similar experiences to try to say "we understand." Yet, even this seems hollow at times.

Perhaps our greatest gesture of caring is to turn to our own students and re-commit ourselves to making their worlds better through our teaching, our listening to them, and our encouraging them.

Traci, being the gifted teacher that she is, provides us with a list of 10. I wonder if she will expand these and put them on her Lists of Ten. Yes, we need stories; we need to create a history through these stories, that future generations may come to understand and learn about themselves.

Millie said...

I wanted to let you know that NCTE has posted a brief list of Resources for Teaching in a Time of Crisis.