Looking out from the MRM to the east over downtown Milwaukee, the sun is beginning to rise at 6:30 a.m. Men who are in the Program (the recovery) program are greeted with this uplifting and encouraging view.
It looks like another sunny and cold day here.
If one is tall enough, one can look from a window on a third floor landing of Cross Trainers Academy. Beyond the parking lot is a residential neighborhood in which many families live as well as students from Marquette University. We can see numerous other neighborhoods from this tall spot, including: Harambee, Bronzeville, Brewer's Hill; among others. The Mission is situated in a visually commanding area. When we are on the third or fourth floor of the mission or the school, we can see for miles in all directions. Really a fun view of the community.
Sunrise over Milwaukee on our last day of working with students at CTA. Each morning this week starting at about 6:30 a.m., the sun has greeted us through crisp air temperatures. One of the very cool things about being on the west side of Lake Michigan is that we see more sunshine. Once the sun is full out, it makes the 14 degree temperature and the very brisk wind seem less onerous.
We continue to have experiences that push our thinking and our assumptions. Two from yesterday stand out.
We visited our last Milwaukee school yesterday afternoon, Mt. Calvary Lutheran School. This school is located in the northwest part of Milwaukee in the Sherman Park neighborhood. Kerri, the principal, gave us a tour of the building, set us “loose” into classrooms to observe, and then spent an hour talking with us about our impressions and her experiences.
Kerri, who has been at Mt. Calvary for seventeen years, said two things that stand out for me: this school is built on relationships and everyone has a story. We have seen numerous examples of schools that focus with undivided attention on academic achievement, including public, charter, and faith-based schools. Mt. Calvary begins from the perspective that relationship is paramount for the students they serve, concluding that without a strong relationship, very little else matters. Kerri talked about the importance of relationship for the students who need a physically and emotionally safe place in which to learn. Several times she told us that, for example, if a student throws over a desk, it isn’t enough to level a consequence for that action; rather, it is critical that one works to understand why the student threw over a desk in order to help him/her and us maintain and move forward, in relationship. We were impressed with the vision and commitment of this school as embodied by Kerri.
Kerri also made the point that everyone has a story. She showed us a picture of five students who are now in eighth grade. The picture was taken when the students were in fourth grade. As you can imagine, when the students saw their fourth grade picture, they could hardly believe those little kids were them. Kerri pointed to each student and told a brief piece of their story. She told us that the first student had seen her father shot to death on their front lawn at Halloween. The second student had to notify authorities of abuse and neglect occurring in her home. Of course, the student and her siblings were removed from the home. They have returned recently, after the household was deemed acceptable; but, this student lives with the guilt and the awkwardness of having exposed her family’s challenges. Kerri’s point is that each student, each person has a story that makes him/her unique. It’s our challenge as educators, and those concerned with bringing reconciliation to this world, to understand those stories and to create a world in which the individuals who live those stories can learn and live vibrantly.
It reminds us that we all have stories and we each bring our stories to our work and to our relationships. The men and women who live at the Mission have unique stories. The students who come to school at CTA and Mt. Calvary and all the other schools we visited have stories. The teachers and the educational assistants of CTA have stories. How these stories are told and how they play out and how they end are bound together with the relationships we have with each other.