Gleaming Windows, Steady Hearts

I marvel, daily, at the new Tech High School, which I now have the privilege to call my new workplace. It is a gift from the greater St. Cloud community to its high schoolers, and, yes, also to its middle, elementary, and preschool students. It’s a gift to my children, your children, and their children. Indeed, its bright hallways and gleaming glass windows are a gift to the future of the city and the state, a gift to each adult who helps to pay for it and to those who do not.

Within its walls, eager students who shall support the state of Minnesota are learning and growing, changing and supporting one another as they count their days together in community. I walk the halls and I envision the hope that sits in its granite, its steel beams, its shimmering glass. Like the lasting state of the materials that make up the structure, I, too, have made my claim on this new ground. My stake, though unseen, is also strong and deep—my ties are to the students and to the lives I hope to touch through my teaching.

And so when a major fight broke out at Tech during my lunch break, I felt a strong jab in the stomach when I heard the P.A. announcement: “We are implementing a lock down at this time. Repeat: we are implementing a lock down.” Those words stink when you know it’s not a drill. Really, they do.

Students scrambled to classrooms, others ambled along in a leisurely teenage manner, unaware or ambivalent about the seriousness of the situation. Others tried to find out what was happening and tried to make their way towards the melee. Fortunately for those of us in the east wing, the fire doors closed us off to the scene on the other side of the doors in our beautiful Commons area and then upstairs into the library and beyond as a jumble of students chose to make some very poor choices. Sadly for them, those choices led to their expulsion from the opportunities that awaited them at Tech. Instead, they have left their negative mark on the school and on those students and staff who were closely involved — by choice or by circumstance.

It was surely a tough week that followed. Our stalwart administrative staff, along with local law enforcement, shored up the school quickly. But the marks that the fight left are still apparent. Staff and students are still shaken; students are on edge, and staff work hard to smooth out the rough edges on both the students and themselves. It’s messy work, but the future is worth that messiness. So we teach on, students continue to learn, and our new building continues to gleam and beckon. While the fight was, indeed, a disconcerting incident, our Tiger Pride will outshine that darkness and, as a community of teachers and learners, our resilience remains. Our determination demands it, our desire overcomes it, and we wake up and shine as the calendar moves forward into each new day.

We at Tech are defined by respect, responsibility, and Tiger pride; please hold us in your minds in that way as the bells continue to ring and as each school day unfolds. May peace and hope reign over our learning spaces, our students, and our hearts. May peace and hope soak into the bones of the new building and into this and future generations of Tech Tigers.