I look at the faces of the students in my class – young and clueless as to what the world has in store for them. I try to tell them the truth whenever I can and help prepare them to face reality in all of its forms.
The class dissolved in frustration one day two years ago. We were preparing for a concert and we had completely lost our focus. One of our concert managers, who NEVER lost her cool, stepped up to give the choir a piece of her mind. It was glorious to behold – this young woman taking charge in a way she never had before, speaking her truth about something that mattered deeply to her. She led the class in a discussion about why they were there (the beauty of being the choir teacher is that, for the most part, they choose to be there). They made a list on the board. The first two priorities of these kids had nothing to do with the music that they feel shimmering in the room, giving them goosebumps when they lock the harmony together just right. Their first two reasons for being in that room were family and friends.
I have spent the better part of my adult life trying to provide a space for these kids, the misfits and the fits-just-rights, to work together in harmony, whether that involves music or not. Music has always been my tool, but citizenship, teamwork, diplomacy, tact, respect, and leadership are always my goals. These kids learn music, sure, but they are a part of a group that is growing up. Students from my early days of teaching have long since gotten married and started families, and have been voting for ten years. They need to know what’s important, because the people they vote for have a control over their lives that they are most likely loathe to acknowledge.
These kids are the ones that are going to be making the decisions before too long, if they aren’t already. And who will be there to show them how to lead? How to research and educate themselves? How to have an opinion all their own for reasons they actually understand? They way things are going, no one.
I’m not just running on a platform of education – although my being a teacher does make it my number one priority. I’m running on kindness. I’m running to both protect and empower the children of Oklahoma to be successful and positively contribute to our state’s values and culture. I’m running to remind everyone that it takes compassion to see what is needed, but it also requires listening.
I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know all the answers. I don’t even know what I don’t know. But that’s not the point. I’m here for you. I’m listening. So tell me what you need and let’s work together. Because we need more kids growing up to be senators and fewer growing up to leave the state. And we need legislators in office that will answer the phone, listen to people speak their truths, take them seriously, and find a common ground. Our future is not Democrat or Republican. Our future is Oklahoma, and right now, we’re not OK.