In Spring 2011, I was assigned to my first student teaching field experience. Twice a week for twelve weeks, I worked in an eighth grade Language Arts classroom. When I began, the English Department was just starting a four-week poetry unit spanning the themes: determination, cultures, love, and courage. During the last week of the unit, my supervising teacher confided in me that she hoped to inspire 127 social activists, at which my heart leapt with joy. For I believe that it is each and every adult's responsibility to teach, influence, and empower youth to support and fight for causes in which they believe. That Tuesday started off like any other. Mrs. Jennings and I prepped for the day's back-to-back classes during the first two periods of the morning. Little did I know what I was about to experience.
As our planning time ended, students noisily trickled in the room before settling into their seats. At the ding, ding of the bell, class kicked off with Bear Time. To demonstrate the quintessential embodiment of courage, the video of the day properly titled, "One with Courage...Is a Majority," featured the infamous Tank Man. Suddenly, images of protesters rallying for freedom, government defiance, military brutality, and hope tumbled across the screen. As the images flashed, Coldplay's "Fix You" filled the four walls. Standing in the back of the room, barely choking down a sob, tears cascaded down my face. At thirty-one-years old, I had never heard of the Tiananmen Square Massacre nor Tank Man. Awestruck, I watched a lone man courageously place himself directly in front of moving tanks preventing them from moving forward. A consciousness like I'd never experienced before surged through me; further arousing the advocate nature of my being. I admit, unashamedly, I cried three times that day, during third, fourth, and fifth periods; and consequently, every time I've watched that video since then. Who am I kidding, I cried today re-watching the video before writing this post.
To this day, Tank Man's identity and his fate after that memorable day is not known, but his bold, courageous opposition of authority will forever live on.
Originally posted on the Nerdy Book Club:
NERDY SOCIAL ACTION BY SARAH MULHERN GROSS