I am not usually one for writing about current news stories. However, every so often the real world sneaks up on me, smacks me right between the eyes and I feel compelled to write about it.
That's how I have felt about this past week.
I shy away from controversy and tend to keep my opinions to myself on social media. This is for two reasons:
Firstly, I don't want to say something that others don't agree with and end up reading cutting remarks about and me and my writing. For me, social media isn't about my airing of political views and spewing about what is wrong or what is right about the world today. No, for me, social media is about sharing the fact that one of my amazing Year 8 boys asked me yesterday if 'Utopia' was a country. 'No,' was my reply. 'That's Ethiopia.' I just want to make people smile.
Secondly, I don't write about current events because I am not clued up on everything that's going on in the world at the moment. My television channel barely moves from 614 and 615 when the kids are awake (CBeebies and Nick Jr for those of you who are wondering...) and by night, my sordid love affair with Sky Atlantic takes precedence over watching the news. I am not knowledgeable enough to weigh in and discuss serious stories and my come back of 'I know you are, I said you are, but what am I?' is just not a strong enough argument to defend myself against some of the trolls hiding in the dark spaces in-between the comments section on social media.
Last week, after putting my children to bed each night, I strained my eyes and read page after page of news on my phone screen and some of the facts I read brought me to tears.
I watched British Football Fans fighting in France. My heart broke for Orlando when innocent people were killed and injured in a horrific shooting. Tuesday came around and I found myself reading about Orlando again and how a two year old had been dragged into a lagoon by an alligator. Then on Thursday, I read about a local MP called Jo Cox. She had been shot, stabbed and rushed into hospital. I settled to watch the England and Wales football match knowing that Ms Cox was alive and in safe hands at Leeds General Infirmary.
That evening at dinner, my partner and I discussed the day's hideous event.
"I hope she is okay," I said.
"She's died," my partner said. "It's barbaric."
"She hasn't," I insisted. "She is in hospital."
He reached for his phone and instantly updated me.
I had to take a minute.
Later that night, as I lay next to my children, I read more and more about the very wonderful Jo Cox. As a successful working mother, she would have left her children that morning and expected to see them again that evening. No one should ever go to work and never return home. I was heartbroken. I searched desperately to find the good in the world again.
That is what this piece is about. Finding the good. Because it is there. It is all around us. It always has been and it always will be. It's about knowing where to look.
This week, I found goodness in my Year 9 class. They are a wonderful eclectic mix of pupils of middle to low ability. Sometimes they challenge me; sometimes they stare at me in silence with blank expressions on their faces, but more often than not, they make me smile.
Sometimes they amaze me.
On Thursday morning, they did just that.
The topic for the day was the analysis of language. We read an article about an openly gay rugby player.
After a weekend that saw the news filled with stories of hate that linked with both sport and sexuality, I saw this article as a great tool to spark some serious debate, some riveting conversations and some strong opinions. I thought I might even have to challenge some ideas.
I was wrong.
Rugby is the beating heart of our school; it is a topic that draws a lot of our pupils into conversation.
"Why do you think the rugby player kept his sexuality to himself for so many years?"
"He was scared of what others would think, Miss."
"Yes, so if your fellow team mate told you, after years of playing rugby together, that he was gay. How would you react?"
"What would you say to your friend?"
Eventually, someone spoke.
"I wouldn't say anything, Miss. He's my friend."
"What if your friend wanted a reaction, your opinion or some advice? What would you say?"
"I'd tell him to stay focused on the match because we had a game to win."
I feared that they didn't understand what I was asking of them. However, we unanimously agreed that the appalling things that happened last weekend have no place in this world.
When asked to speak about sexuality in context, they couldn't. Not because they didn't understand, but because it just isn't an issue for them. I am lucky enough to work with young people who tolerate, accept and love people's differences. When the world is at its most cruel, I look to them because they are our future and they are good.
People yearn for the Britain of old when people were perhaps more patriotic. But, weren't people also more racist and less tolerant of people who dared to be true to themselves and stand out from the crowd?
I am lucky enough to live in a country that celebrates freedom and I am privileged to teach pupils who don't just tolerate people's differences, but they accept them because it's all they have ever known.
As teachers, we will strive to educate your children and turn them into good citizens, however, education starts and finishes in the home and love will always breed love.
Thank you Year 9 for allowing me to see some good in the world this week.Suggest a correction