Sunday, July 29, 2007

A tough week...

This has been a tough week...

Between the years 2001 and 2004, I taught psychology, economics, and history at Cheshire Academy. Those days now seem far away right given all the work and progress I've experienced at the Center for 21st Century Skills.

But Cheshire Academy was my most rewarding teaching experience, allowing me to really branch out and learn about learning at warp speed. The students, colleagues, and community at Cheshire Academy were really like a family for 3 full years - with all the exultations and tribulations that families bring.

That's why this week has been so tough. Over the past couple of years, tragedy has tinged the memories. Glenn Edwards tragically took his own life as the result of the pain and humiliation of a charge of sexual misconduct with a minor. Regardless of how one feels about an openly gay man living and teaching in a boarding school community, Glenn was immensely popular with, and caring towards the vast majority of students he interacted with.

What happened to Glenn could happen to anyone of any sexual orientation, whose urges are not rigorously self-controlled in an arena of close proximity and relationship with students far from home and family. This may sound like a no-brainer, but many of these students come to view their "local parents" with the same emotions and intimacy that occurs in any close knit family setting. And so the line of "appropriate behavior" is always being tested.

The news on Monday morning of this week was surreal. A gruesome triple homicide in the town of Cheshire... what was the family name? Oh my dear God! It can't be... Jenn Petit? Her 2 daughters? Her husband beaten to within an inch of his life? How could this be?

Jenn Petit was a stalwart of my Cheshire Academy family experience. Beautiful, intelligent, professional... all of this and so, so much more. She had the completely rare and uncanny ability to do what some can never do - approach that very fine and undefinable line between keeping a "professional" distance and getting so personal with the students under her care, that never once in my experience would a child ever have any reason to feel anything but completely safe in Jenn's care. Jenn was perfect in the roll of student health provider and teacher. Her death this week is a tragedy for the world. Her death, and its gruesome manner tests our faith - in goodness, in charity, in kindness, and in doing for others.

And so, it's hard to find any silver linings in this week of sorrow and broken hearts. One of Cheshire Academy's 2002 graduates, a Japanese student known to all as Masa, compiled a piece that I think reflects well on the Cheshire Academy family. I offer it here in tribute to Jenn Petit and her family. God bless them all.

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