Inconveniently Outraged: Knowing the Difference between Injustice and Irritation

We’ve had a bit of chilly weather down south, to say the least.

The arctic front passing through our southern state has caused just a few blips, one of them being a week off of school due to snow and sub-zero temperatures.

To combat lost instructional time, the superintendent of schools, (I’m assuming with at least one reliable advisor by his side) decided to take away two half days and add 15 minutes to our schedule from March 2nd until April 30th.

They made the announcement first to teachers via phone message, then to students. I am a teacher and I have students in our county, so I received it twice.

Then….they put it on Facebook.

Let the hating begin. It was on par with Kim Kardashian showing her (ummmm…) “back-hind” as my daughter likes to call it. The comments varied from completely illiterate (maybe you should be in school for more than 15 extra minutes a day, buddy) to well thought out. Some were thankful to county leaders for making decisions that not only kept their children safe during weather, but insured that they did suffer any instructional losses.

Others were just, for lack of a better word, whiney.

My initial reaction when I received the phone message was irritation. I teach elementary school and we already have a late release of 3:45 pm. Plenty of students don’t get off of the bus as it is until 4:20 pm on a normal day. This puts them home even later, and we all know how pleasant children are when they are tired.

I was also irritated because adding 15 minutes just technically adds to the minutes on their books, but will not be of true value when it comes down to it. Teachers will find a way to kill that 15 minutes quickly, because there is never enough time, but it seems like an awful lot of work to change schedules for teachers, janitors, bus drivers, school personnel…all for very little return.

I was also inconvenienced because believe it or not, 15 minutes alters our after school activities two days a week. We have a tight schedule because our school already releases so late.

But that’s all I was. Irritated and slightly inconvenienced.

We have become a culture of outrage and injustice. At the smallest slight, we scream at the top of our lungs, rage and throw around language that would make a sailor blush and duck his head. 

“How dare they do this to me! My daughter is going to be exhausted!”

“Idiots! No wonder this county is so terrible! (It’s not.)

Those are the tame responses. The ranting continued for over 400 comments the last time I looked. It was mesmerizing and terrifying.

We aren’t teaching our young folks to stand up for injustice when adults behave this way. We are teaching them to stand up for irritation and inconvenience.  The problem is that they will find irritation and inconvenience almost daily in their adult lives. If they are enraged by every single one, we are raising a generation of children whose blood pressure will shoot through the roof if they have a slow check-out person in the grocery store line.

Adults, I challenge you as I challenge myself to let irritations and inconveniences be just that. Let them go (sing it if you have to) and move on as quickly as possible because the longer we model outrage at the smallest issue, the more likely our children will take that pawn and double it.

Injustice: racial inequality.

Irritation: traffic

Injustice: civil wars around the world leaving millions homeless.

Irritation: the dishwasher breaking

Injustice: students not being able to access equal education everywhere

Inconvenience: school letting out later than usual.

I am the first to stand up and defend what I see as wrong. I have strong opinions (obviously) and I’m not afraid to voice them. I am concerned that I am not defining clearly enough what is worth being angry about and what I need to roll my eyes over and move on from.

There is plenty in our world to stand up against and to stand up for. Medical care, the rights of the disabled, mental health issues, women’s rights and the concerns I have about educational reform are worth getting worked up about.

I’ve decided to use the extra 15 minutes a day to read aloud to my class.  We will make the most of it, although there will be griping from students and parents alike. In the end though, it is only an inconvenience and an irritation. It is not an injustice.