Apply to be part of our virtual math teacher institute, happening every Thursday from February 25th to March 25th. This conference will be packed with shows, panels and workshops to bring math storytelling back to the classroom. Applications are open now and are due on Friday, January 29th. Welcome to the Mall podcast, I'm your host for this week, John Good. This first month of 2021 has seen the inauguration of a history making president and vice president and at the same time, a huge spike in covid numbers, an attack on the U.S. Capitol in nationwide division.
You've heard it said before, we are living in unprecedented times. And in times like these, we must ask ourselves, how did we get here? So this week, we have two stories about moments of reckoning with the present forces, us to look back on the past with different eyes. Up first is Julie Baqer. Julie told this story at a Boston story slam with a theme of the night was confrontations. A quick heads up Julie's story includes depictions of an abusive household.
Here's Julie Lab at the mall. When I was 13 years old, my mother saw my reflection in the kitchen mirror as I was mimicking her to my best friend.
She responded by breaking to melamine plastic plates over my head.
They were avocado, green and mustard yellow, it was the 70s that wasn't the first time she was violent or the last, but it was the first time she did it in front of anyone who wasn't part of our immediate family. I was mortified, my shame hurt more than the lump on my head. So 20 years later, when the midwife said it's a girl.
At the birth of my first child, I thought, fucking awesome. I get the ultimate do over, I get to do everything right that she did wrong. I get to break the cycle.
It was just going to be a piece of cake and it was for a while.
I read every parenting book. I went to groups. I did meditation. I read little daily reflections for mothers who do too much.
I bought her a little kitchen and a tool bench. And then she hit puberty and I didn't know what the hell I was doing. I was on my own by then, she had a little brother and I had no tools, I knew how to yell and scream and swear and take shit away.
That's all I knew how to do. And I thought I was doing OK because I didn't break plates over her head.
And then I really went crazy. The insanity is best illustrated in one confrontation that happened almost two years ago. She was 16. It was a sunny Saturday in June, I was 50. But you would have thought I was the teenager. She was supposed to help me pack the car. We were going away on an annual camping trip. She didn't wake up. She was she didn't do what I said. She talked back. Basically, she was a teenager, but I didn't know how to deal.
I started taking things away. You're losing this. You're losing that. And the ultimate thing that you can take away from a teenager is a cell phone.
So I threatened to take away the cell phone. We had a wrestling match over the cell phone before I knew it.
We're in the street. I live on a pretty major street in kind of a nice town. I live on the low rent district of the nice town. But the Outis in the BMW and the Mercedes drive past my house. And there's my 16 year old daughter on one side of the street.
And I'm on the other side of the street and I'm screaming at the top of my lungs, apologize or I'm throwing your phone under the tires of the next car. This made a lot of sense to me in the moment.
I thought this was a good tactic and it wasn't. She is screaming back.
No, I'm screaming yes. And cars are just looking. And then I felt like I couldn't back down. I had I had laid down the law, so I threw it.
I don't remember the specific car, but I remember they veered. They must have been scared shitless, like, what the hell is this projectile coming at my car? They managed not to run over it, but it smashed the screen. She ran in the road. There was more drama. I called a friend who I should have called an hour earlier who tried to talk me off the ledge while I was on the phone with her. My daughter decided that fair's fair and she should throw my work laptop in the road.
I held onto it for dear life and I started screaming craziness. I had read in some parenting book. I don't feel safe. I don't feel safe. My friend did what a friend does when someone says they don't feel safe, and she called the police when the sirens showed up.
It wasn't good. My 12 year old son told them he didn't feel safe. I watched my children in the back seat of a police car. He looked terrified. She looked smug, I had lost it, and she won and I was a crazy woman. I'd like to say that that was the end, but it wasn't if there are any mandatory reporters in the room, you should feel reassured to know that the Department of Child and Family Services is well acquainted with my family, have provided us amazing services.
At first I was pissed off.
I felt like I did not break plates over their heads, but. I did I was not the mom I wanted to be, I had not broken the cycle, but now I have. It wasn't pretty. It wasn't fast, it wasn't clean. But I've broken the cycle.
Thank you. That was Julie Baker, Julie Baker is a writer, a storyteller and a single mom living in Boston. In normal times, she volunteers and tell stories at more stories, slams and convinces newbies to do the same. During the pandemic, she attends virtual storytelling events and shows off her grandmother's quilt as Zoome backgrounds. Julie told us that her daughter moved out and cut her off after the cell phone incident between therapy and Alana. And Julie says she could no longer ignore the connections between her parenting struggles and her 30 year estrangement from her own mother.
She says, quote, After a lot of painful work and some divine intervention, I forgave my mother. And when she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer a few months later, I helped care for her while she was in hospice. Our reconciliation taught me a lot about myself and allowed me to make meaningful amends with my children, unquote. These days, Julie has reconciled with both her children, her son goes off to college next year, and she says while he finds his mother incredibly annoying, he no longer feels unsafe in his home.
Julie and her daughter, who is now in college, FaceTime regularly and see each other most weekends. She says they always hug hello and goodbye and say, I love you to see some photos of Julie and her family here to the extras on our website, The Mofongo Extras. Up next this week is Meg Lavery. Meg told this story at a grand slam in Chicago with the theme of the night was Fuel to the fire. Another heads up make story deals with the threat of violence in a school setting.
Here's Meg. Laugh at the mall. There's pockets in this dress, OK? I was sitting on a metal stool in front of my desk holding a copy of Agatha Christie's and then there were none when out of the corner of my eye, I saw through the janky ass metal blinds that never really closed all the way. Shadows are figures. And before I could really process what I was seeing over the intercom blared the sound. We are in a federal building locked down repeat.
We are in a full building down.
And I prayed it was a drill, but I wasn't for sure. And adrenaline pulsed through my body as I leaped from my stool, ran to the door, shutting it with one hand and ushering my students to stand, move against the wall and sit in front of the cabinets, away from the windows. The pounding started on the windows, pound, pound, pound, and two girls grabbed hands, their matching friendship bracelets trembling on their wrists. A boy who was usually so quiet and reserved sat upright and spread his arms as if shielding the kids around him from the sound.
The pounding continued but faded as it moved down our windows to other classrooms until we were sitting in silence. And I know that we were all holding our breath because I was in a room with twenty seven seventh graders and I could hear the clock tick. Now, I had been in that classroom for many years and I didn't even know that the clock made a sound right.
Then we started hearing some noise by the door and I had a sit ups in my brain that made me panic, that I had forgotten to lock it. That morning, I had been very careful to come in through my door and lock it immediately, ever since the staff meeting that we had had a few weeks before it was 2008. And there had been a shooting at Northern Illinois University on Valentine's Day. And that hit very close to home for the community where I taught at that time.
And our principal worked with authorities to put together procedures so that we at our middle school would have a process for a lockdown in case of an active shooter.
And we sat at the staff meeting and they told us they wanted it to mimic real life. So we weren't going to get the time or the date that it would happen. Just know that we've given you a script, you know the procedures and your job is to keep the kids safe. And I took that very seriously because school should be a safe place no matter where you live.
And that is why I was particularly worried that I hadn't locked the door. So when we heard the noises, I was panicked. But thankfully I had because the noises soon turned to shouting and banging open. The door opened the door and we sat and listened to the locks, struggled to hold its place as the door was violently jerked.
The kids who were sitting closest to the door were stricken, their fists were clenched, their eyes were shut, their jaws were clenched, it's like they were bracing for impact. And I just kept thinking, what the hell would I do if this was real?
So I reassured myself with the same idea that I told my students and reassurance a few minutes later when the drill was over. This is the thing, guys. School shootings don't happen in 10 years since Columbine, there's only been a handful of shootings and they've all been at colleges and universities. We do tornado drills and fire drills. And you're not afraid of those. This is just something the school needs. And I felt OK about that answer until a girl raised her hand and said, So, Miss Larry, what if I was like getting a drink or something when the lockdown happened?
But when I came back, the door was locked. What would happen then? Fuck, shit, fuck.
I mean, obviously, I didn't say that to her, thankfully, I had the script to go by, but I knew what the script said and the script said that I had to look at that barely 13 year old girl and tell her I had to leave her in the hallway.
But I couldn't compromise the 26 students that were still in the classroom and she looked at me and she recoiled in a veil of innocence, fell down her face with her tears and said, You mean you would leave me out there to die?
What do you say? Yes. No, maybe.
I gave her the answer that I could fall back on, and that was again to reassure her that this was an anomaly, it was not going to happen in Lake County, Illinois. And she accepted the answer, even though it wasn't the one that she wanted. And actually, everyone in that room accepted the answer because it gave us all the security we needed to hear. Now, fast forward 10 years to 2019. I'm teaching in a new district and a new school, still middle schoolers.
And the thing is, because these kids have been doing this drill, kids that are in middle school now since they were in kindergarten, they are seasoned veterans.
And the thing is, is I can no longer look at them and tell them that school shootings don't happen, that they're an anomaly, that we don't have to be concerned about them because a neighboring town had a middle schooler this year found with the loaded armed rifle in his bedroom after making threats to the school, many of whom my students knew. So when the familiar lockdown announcement came on over the intercom, the students didn't look to me at all.
They were more like military operatives than awkward teenagers as they planned how to barricade the door with which desks and which stapler would be the heaviest one to throw at someone. And when I brought my finger to my mouth to help them be quiet, a kid looked at me unflinchingly and said words that cut to my core. McClaughry Your job is not to save us. We have to save ourselves.
And I looked up at a sign that's been hanging in my room that says something like The job of a teacher is to enable the student to move forth without you. And I have looked at that sign a lot of times for inspiration, but I never thought the way I would see it play out was in that situation.
Thank you. That was Meg Laborie, Meg lives in a conservation community in Grayslake, Illinois, with her wife, daughter and a menagerie of rescue animals. She's a health teacher and coach on the North Shore whose passion is helping kids become good humans. She says teaching important topics like mental health, consent and substance abuse are her jam. We asked Meg what her story means to her now amid the pandemic and nationwide unrest. Here's what she had to say.
So something that I can't shake from my brain is hearing elected officials talking about feeling unsafe at work and having to take cover and that they didn't know they'd ever have to instruct their aides to barricade doors.
But and yet this is standard lockdown protocol in public schools, K-12 across the nation. And far more children have faced real life massacres in their schools than politicians have at work.
That was McClaughry Make told us that she and her seventh grade classes worked with a Grammy nominated singer songwriter Justin Roberts, last month to write songs about how students are feeling. And I think we can all relate to this one.
I'm trapped in the darkness and all afraid of my problems, trying to evade, trying to keep my.
Open wide joining my zoom, but access was denied. Sylvia and I get along, Sylvia. It makes me feel small, Sylvia. I don't like it at all. See, on the Andy it makes it smile. That was Justin Roberts singing covid, written by Meg's seventh grade class. To hear more songs from her students and see some photos of Makes Home Classroom set up, head to the extras for this episode on our website, The Mortgage Extras.
That's all for this week. We hope you're all staying safe and healthy out there until next time. From all of us here at the mall, have a story for the week. See, I think that was a very pleasant. John Goode is an Emmy nominated writer raised in Richmond, Virginia, and currently residing in Atlanta, Georgia, where he's the regular host of The Moth Story Slam, John's debut novel, Midas, is available now wherever you purchase your books.
This episode of The Moth podcast was produced by me, Julia Purcell with Sarah Austin Janez and Sarah Jane Johnson. Recording support on this episode is from Tiffany. Good. Megan Labrys Grandslam story was coached by Jody Powell. The rest of the mosque's leadership team includes Kathryn Burns, Sara Habermann, Jennifer Hickson, Meg Bolls, Kate Tellers, Jennifer Bermingham, Marina Clucky, Suzanne Rust, Brandon Grant, England, Glenorchy and Altay casette special. Thanks to John.
Good for jumping on to host this episode last minute and for being an all around mothe superhero. Moth stories are true as remembered and affirmed by storytellers. For more about our podcasts, information on pitching your own story and everything else, go to our website. The Moth Dog. The Moth podcast is presented by PRICK'S, The Public Radio Exchange helping make public radio more public at Parks dot org.