Listen and Understand

When I was a sophomore in high school, I staged a sit-out from my algebra class.

A group of students in the class were frustrated by the lack of teaching being done.

The teacher assigned to teach algebra was a science teacher, but due to lack of funds, and an overwhelming need for another math teacher, he drew the short stick and had to teach an extra class during the day.

Numbers have never been my forte, and when the alphabet was added into the equation, well, I was completely lost.

The science teacher who was assigned the added math class to his schedule, gave the class assignments to complete and then left us on our own to do our work. If we didn’t understand something, we were free to go to his desk and ask questions, where he would tell us we should have learned this in the previous year and to try to figure it out.

It was evident to us that he wasn’t happy having to give up his free hour, and he had no time to devote to helping a handful of students ‘get it’.

My quizzes and tests reflected how lost I was, and I walked into class each day wondering why I was wasting my time.

Making a Difference

Until one day, I decided not to go.

Instead of going to my algebra class, I decided to sit outside the school office during that hour.

The first day I sat there alone doing homework while faculty and students passed by with curious looks.

The second day there were three of us sitting together, and one of the assistant vice principals walked past.

“Shouldn’t you be in class?” he asked as he opened the office door.

“There is no point. We aren’t learning anything. We are given assignments and left on our own to figure it all out.”

The assistant vice principal smiled, shaking his head and proceeded to his office.

The third day, the five other students in my math class, who were also struggling, sat with me outside the school office.

Halfway through our math hour, the principal of the school came out of his office and stopped to talk with us.

“I hear you aren’t going to math class. Why don’t you come into my office and let’s discuss what’s going on,” he said.

How Society Is Working To Make A Difference

The past few weekends our social media feeds have been filled with news of the NFL teams either not taking the field or kneeling during the National Anthem.

I have been a military dependent most of my life; my Dad served for 23 years in the Navy, and I stood by my husband during his 20 years of service. So I understand the frustration that many are feeling.

There is nothing more important to me than respecting the flag that flies around every city in this nation and the service members who fight every day for our freedom.

My husband and I have had many conversations about the right to peacefully protest, and he has given me a great perspective on what he feels about the current situation.  Here are his thoughts;

I served in the Military for 20 years and retired in 1999. 

I joined the military because I believe in America. 

After spending years serving a country and the ideals for what it was founded on, I’ve come to understand that nobody has to stand during the National Anthem, no one has to put their hand over their heart, and people can even burn it in protest to their cause.  

I understand that many men and women have served and shed their blood to defend the freedom to kneel, to raise a fist and to stay in the locker room if they so choose.

The flag is a symbol of the freedom every individual has because of the men and women who have served and have fought for the right to protest peacefully.

As a veteran, I will forever stand and pay respect to the flag of the United States. But I will also recognize and respect the need to stand up against injustice. 

Standing for the flag is a tradition and not a requirement.  

It is not about disrespecting the military. 

It’s a peaceful protest that is a right; a right I raised my hand and swore an oath to ‘defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic.’

Kenneth Denn, MM1 USN retired

Listening To The Message

His words are valuable.

He is a retired, disabled American Veteran, and while his feelings aren’t a blanket statement for all veterans, many Vets echo his sentiment.

As I think back to the reasons, I organized a sit-out in high school, I find I am taking a broader look at the message the players of the NFL may be trying to get across.

And I am left wondering, do we understand what the REAL message is that these players are trying to send?

When I staged the sit-out, not everyone in the class agreed with me, and many chose not to join me.

I didn’t stage the sit-out to be disrespectful to the school, or the teacher involved. I did it to bring awareness to a situation that was affecting me and others around me.

I did it to promote change in a system that chose to listen to respond instead of choosing to listen to understand.

And it helped.

After our meeting with the principal that day, we had a second meeting with the assigned teacher to find a way to work together and help everyone in the class succeed.

Could it be that the players taking a knee or staying in the locker room during the National Anthem has nothing to do with disrespecting the U.S. flag or our nation’s military?

There’s Always More To The Message

“The lion’s story will never be known as long as the hunter is the on to tell it.” ~Unknown

Aren’t they using their platform to get a message out to promote social change in the treatment of black Americans around our country?

A message that many of us have chosen to walk by while shaking our heads.

Not everyone will agree with the tactics used to expose injustices, but there is nothing wrong with agreeing to disagree.

We all have platforms; some are just higher and more visible than others.

While I understand that sitting outside a school office in protest is nothing compared to kneeling for the National Anthem, I think the principles are the same.

The mission and vision statement for my high school is: Learn, Prepare, Succeed

But during my sophomore year, there was a group of us who weren’t succeeding, and while we tried to talk to the administration, we weren’t being heard.

Likewise, as our country boasts of supporting equal rights for everyone, many turn a deaf ear when the fair treatment and rights of others are threatened.

We are in the midst of a great opportunity, to make a significant change in our country.

But we will miss it if we are not willing to listen to understand and only listen to respond. 

By opening ourselves up to learn from others without passing judgment, we can create a world where everyone is heard, respected, and treated equally.

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