I’m finishing my first year as a middle school teacher in North Carolina. I started out coaching track and teaching high school students in my hometown.
I’ve also been a paramedic for the past 14 years and teach an emergency medical science course at a local community college.
As a paramedic, I'm trained to help critically ill and injured people, which is one of the reasons why it was difficult to watch the news coverage of George Floyd being killed by a police officer. He was being injured and I couldn’t help.
Emotions were already high around the time of George Floyd’s death, three of our high school students were involved in a motor vehicle accident where two students lost their lives. To watch an officer kneeling on someone's neck—someone crying out for help—on TV was beyond awful, because the killing of George Floyd should never have happened.
It also bothered me that I could not be with my students because of the pandemic.
My thoughts were with my students that had just gotten to a point where they were accepting one another and their differences. Prior to the murder of George Floyd, we had a restorative practice session where we discussed another case of a white officer and a Black victim. There was obvious tension in the classroom, but everyone worked together to get a better understanding of different perspectives.
I joined a protest organized by one of my former students. The protest provided a space for everyone to grieve and it brought our community together. The protest provided me with a sense of hope.
Now, what do we do to ensure this doesn’t happen again?
As educators, we must talk about the problems that harm our communities. Many people hide from it because they’re difficult conversations.
This also means we must have conversations with community leaders, policymakers, faith groups, and parents. We must be able to articulate why we're having these conversations in our classrooms and continue to create safe spaces.