Zombies, really? Who would have thought that I would see my core message of standing up as a better role model for the next generation through a show about mindless walkers? But it's not as far fetched as it sounds. Really. Hear me out.
If you are friends with me on Facebook you have witnessed my recent obsession with the AMC TV show "The Walking Dead" through my posts. When I first heard of that show I thought it was a silly zombie show that didn't hold any attraction for me. I do not like zombies.
Then again...who does?
I decided on a whim to decide to see what all the fuss was about and voila, it ended up being a Christmas present my husband bought for me. But as he gave me the DVD he said, "I don't think it's what you think it is about...but here you go."
Honestly, first episode in I was in a crouched position on the couch wondering what the heck I was thinking. I don't like scary. I live scary. I like funny. But then I thought about my choices in TV programs and books and do you know what? I don't really do funny either.
I do...thought-provoking. Or at least I find my shows and books thought-provoking. For example, when I tried to figure out why I like "Criminal Minds" I realized it's because I love how passionate the investigators are about what they do. How obsessed they are with what they do and how they work and work until they do their best, despite everything else surrounding them. And that's how I think about parenting and teaching.
I like the TV show "Revolution" because I like to consider how we would survive without power (electrical and personal) and what that means to our identity. Again, I was thinking through my lens as a parent and teacher and all the other roles I partake in.
I like "Once Upon a Time" because I love fairy tales and I love seeing them fractured, split open to see what characters and motivations can mean to a variety of situations. Are you seeing a common thread?
I love classic books like Fahrenheit 451, To Kill a Mockingbird, all things Shakespeare, Once and Future King, and Lord of the Flies--for each of these novels I have a variety of reasons why I love to be in their worlds, but it again seems to boil down to the humanity aspect. What makes us decide on the choices, the 'core' choices that we do?
And that brings me back to "The Walking Dead." What on earth do I like about that show? I love that each episode is storycrafted. That each episode has strong characterization, even if I really don't like a character, I know who they are, eventually, because of what they do and how they behave. And the characters I do like...well, that could take a whole blog itself. But the overshot of it is that my favorite characters are Rick, Laurie, Daryl, Glen, Carol and Hershal. My list gets longer as I think about the calamities each one faces and how they handle their life choices. Each day. In every action and reaction. And how they don't give up.
Ok, so what I love about these characters on this show...even more than in the graphic novels, is how they demonstrate how to live. In the face of death, usually in the form of zombies (everyone apparently has the zombie virus in them, won't that be interesting to see how that came to be!) they make choices every day, every second, on how to be human and how to live amidst so much death and chaos. They choose how NOT to be the Walking Dead themselves.
How many of us, in our own daily lives, can say that? These characters make decisions knowing their lives may depend on what they do and that their loved one's lives will also depend on those choices. Rick (I love Rick the most) wakes up from a coma and he has to quickly catch up--no time for any type of therapy--on what has happened while he was disconnected from the world. Every decision he makes shows a tragic grace. He goes back and tracks down a legless zombie, the first one he encountered and puts her out of her misery, even saying "Sorry, this happened to you" before he shoots her. He tries to 'make it right,' despite the unfairness.
He never makes a decision that is only about him surviving, he takes and makes the difficult decisions when everyone else stands immobile. He is thoughtful and steadfast. He sticks to his core values and he works his hardest to keep everyone safe, even if it means putting himself in danger or if it means everyone will be angry with him. These people make decisions to be human and look out for one another. They are not zombies (those who act without thinking or speaking) even when their backs are up against the wall of survival. They step into their lives and take on the difficulties. Though they are full of fear, these characters know if they do not take this stand for humanity, then all will be lost.
Lately I have felt that I needed to make that decision too. When my mother died I was a crossroads as to what my life meant and what I stood for. I questioned my career choice (considering massage therapy, even applying and being accepted into school), my religion, as well as my roles as mom, wife and friend. Everything. What was I willing to 'fight' for?
Then something miraculous happened. I walked back into my classroom after the long summer and I had a moment of clarity. You see, I had second guessed my role as a teacher because it had been such a terrible year chock full of teacher bashing, tearing and defending our very existence. Lots (and lots) of new unfair testing began for the students but no one would listen to us (teachers) because others were too busy eating our brains for having unions, getting paid and having summers 'off.' Lots of unfair evaluations for teachers, but who would listen to us? We sounded self-serving when we fought the herds of standardized drills, data and misinformation. It seemed like I woke up one day and the world had gone crazy (I could imagine how Rick felt when he woke up from his coma to the zombies!)...and the thought of finally homeschooling and taking my family out of the chaos seemed the best decision. After all, was I even making a difference anymore??
Enough was enough.
Then, as I said, I walked back into my classroom. Here was this fresh group of faces before me. And I knew that I couldn't 'step out' and leave them to fight or flight or lose without standing beside/before them for this standoff. I couldn't leave my worn down peers during this struggle.
I chose to throw myself back into the fray of how teaching is right now, but I would not join a herd of voiceless, eat-your-own group of people.
I chose to fight like Rick, Laurie, Daryl, Glen, Carol, Hershal...for all the Carls (kids) out there who don't know any other life or education system except what's before them now. I chose to stand before the Carls (both the vulnerable regular ed students and the special ed students), with my bowstring and pen drawn for as long as I possibly can. And I hope that as I do I will be joined by others who are willing to stand up...that more parents will join me, that more of my peers will stand up, find their voices and remember why they got into teaching in the first place ...and then maybe change can happen.
It has to. It must. If not us, who? If not now, when?
PS. I started this piece in January and just finished now. Whew. Hope you liked it even though it wasn't centered directly around my attempts to make sense of Kath's world...but it kind of is after all...isn't it?