The thing that gave me hope today.
A happy story. A true story.
Today, in honor of International Women's Day one of my colleagues made the very brave decision to deviate from the normal agenda and teach a group of my Year 8s about the history of women's rights and gender equality.
I have to say that, honestly, when I realized where she was going with the lesson I felt a panic. My body reacted almost immediately - muscles tensed, pulse quickened and eyes narrowed, carefully scanning the room for any telltale signs of impending silliness because, you see, I know my kids.
My kids are lovely, but they are also twelve and thirteen-year-old, pre-pubescent, professional mutineers. They are boisterous bundles of comedic energy fizzing and popping and surging for an outlet. They are tiny critics - skeptical and hard-won and inclined to play devils advocate just for the fun of it.
They are good kids, to be sure, but they are young and self-concious and sometimes struggle to take their lessons seriously.
Plus, the overwhelming majority of the students were boys.
So there I stood with bated breath - at the back of the classroom, right behind the ones who I was sure would have something provocative to say - when something completely unexpected and amazing happened.
They totally got it.
They got it!
They ate up the history and statistics, wanting to know everything about the suffragettes. They ooh'd and aah'd over the ways in which inequality still prevails, demanding to know why.
"That's not fair!" they cried when they learned about the wage gap.
"That's sexist!" when we discussed the recent case of a female employee being told she had to wear high heels to work.
They were positive and curious, even when their own perceptions were directly challenged. They were eager to praise the women in their lives.
"Tell me one thing that your mum does for you," my colleague inquired.
"She makes me food," one replied.
"She buys my clothes," said another.
"She gives things up so that I can have the things I want."
"She's a good role model and teaches me how to be when I'm older."
They watched the videos with interest and asked questions about every role model that was mentioned. They were animated and enthusiastic and their contributions were thoughtful and sincere. Not one joke about girls' abilities or a "woman's place" was uttered.
It was more than I could expect from some adults.
As that hour passed, perhaps one of the most enjoyable hours that I have experienced with that group, I watched their eyes light up over and over again as they listened intently, absorbing everything. I felt happy to be a part of that moment of learning, of growing, of the visible moulding of a generation.
I felt grateful to my colleague for having had the balls (sorrynotsorry) to take on that responsibility when others wouldn't have gone anywhere near it. Most of all, though, I felt proud of those kids - many of whom are well known in their year for questioning authority and inciting chaos when they feel disconnected from what they are meant to be learning.
For the first time I could see a real glimpse of the future that they could bring, if steered in the right direction. Today I was reminded of why we fight and hope and persevere - because one day those that we teach will make our dreams a reality.
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