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Learning from 6 year-olds

I woke up today with a sense of failure.  Not failure because of my beloved Canucks and their loss in the Stanley Cup Final (or win of 2nd place) but because of what occurred with our city following the game.  Many of our citizens made decisions last night that made me watch in disgust.  In other countries, they riot for freedom, democracy, and equality; last night, some unfortunate people rioted just because.

At school today, many intermediate teachers have used the riots as a teachable moment – to discuss the issues such as mob mentality, groupthink, and the impact of bystanders.  As I was walking down the primary hall, I came across the bulletin board of all the posters from the Canucks playoffs… but the kids had added something that, to me, said it all:

A thank you from our grade 1/2 class.

A thank you from our grade 1/2 class.

Leave it to 6 and 7 year-olds to, again, teach me what it is really all about.

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Chris Wejr

Proud father of twin girls and a son. Currently working as the Principal of James Hill Elementary School (K-5) in Langley, BC, Canada. Passionate about strengths-based education and leadership, reconciliation, assessment, and human motivation.

5 Comments

  1. Hi Chris,
    I was downtown and it brought me to tears.
    People were breaking my city, and breaking people.

    My wife and i went for a walk to be amongst the masses without a single clue that we were walking into a riot. on the way up from Hastings, people walking down the street were kicking over mail and newspaper boxes. i felt obliged to stand each one up as i passed. I think I did that at least 40 times.
    When we got to Georgia the exodus seem casual enough and the police were present.
    And then it changed.
    People started throwing metal barricade stands randomly up into the air and over the crowd. Each one that I saw fly I tried to track down, collect and hide. There were two us doing that and we were depositing them in the lobby of a residential building with the help of a resident at the door. I would hear a loud thud and see objects being thrown at the glass windows of the Bay and at White Spot. Each time we would go and track down the objects and haul them in. These people were devoid of emotion. I couldn’t help but to try and appeal to these hooligans to go away without doing more damage. It really didn’t work out that well.

    My wife was somewhere helping some girl who had shrapnel embedded in her face (from a car explosion?) and another who got punched in the face for taking pictures. She said she heard somebody say, “that guy in the kilt is going to get hurt”. It struck a chord with her because I was the guy in the kilt.

    A young guy was walking down the street with a bushel of Coach handbags. I couldn’t help it but I chased after him to ask why. He told me his BMW had been burned (not likely) so he needed to get something back. I wasn’t going to quit so I followed, and he ran. I ran and kept calling him a thief. There ended up being a small group (my wife included) chasing him down an under ground parking lot. In the end it turned out that the crowd didn’t actually want to help, they just smelled blood and wanted to see some sort of frenzy. They actually turned on my wife and I, accusing us of being the ones who wanted the bags. My wife got the bags back to the Bay and passed them through the window to some security.

    So many people were wearing masks. I was standing by a photographer on Granville when three large men walked by. Both the photographer and I questioned the need to wear a mask. They took exception to the thought that we were accusing them of ding things. In a flash one of the thugs charged toward the photographer. I am not very smart and I did instinctually something that I hope other people might do for me one day: i stepped in between. There was a huge difference in size between the two. The thug did a double take and decided to energetically go after me. Reeling backwards I tripped and fell over a bikerack (complete with bike) and did a backward somersault. As I rolled out of the fall my big new friend was still bearing down on me. The was a police line marching up Granville by now and was about 4 metres away. A loud bang rung out. It turned out that my friend was the target of a tear gas shot. I was greeted by a push back from a riot shield and told to clear out which I did pretty quickly.
    Back on Georgia Street trying to find my wife I noticed that my now unmasked assailent and company had circled around me ready to try and complete the task they were determined to finish. Time for a run, and I ran like crazy. As I ran I was calling for help and stating that I was in trouble. The only thing that did was incite more mob mentality and the group of three had a quick mini following, all looking for the sight and smell of the blood that had dried on my face and arms. I eventually made it to a group of police. The mini goup of blood thirsty hooligans decided that the Four Seasons Hotel would be a new place to make trouble only half a block from the police line where I was. Eventually one tall skinny guy was brought down in cuffs and put in a wagon. I couldn’t be sure if he was part of the original three. I wasn’t going anywhere until I felt it was safe for my wife and I to walk back to Hastings where we were staying. While I was talking to an officer I look up and see the fellow who was after me (and his friend) walking up into the area. I told the police that those were the guys. The police approached them. Told them to get down. They were not good at following a simple instruction like “get down”. It tok five policemen to take down and arrest this fellow while he was yelling, “this is police brutality”.

    This whole evening taught me nothing.
    I have zero recollection about the hockey game, I have zero understanding of what these people were thinking, and I have zero patience for any complaints about the police and the lack of whatever they were supposed to be lacking in.

    I salute the two other gentlemen who were ‘working’ the street alongside me. I have the deepest of regrets for the badly injured fellow who was beating for apparently trying to prevent some looting happening at a store.

    I am so thankful that I cannot be counted amongst the seriously injured.
    I am physically and emotionally exhausted.

    In what was supposed to be a celebration of an extraordinairy season of hockey by Our Vancouver Canucks, I am, as I write this, on the verge of tears recounting the events of the night, none of which had the words ‘fan’ or ‘celebration’.
    I agree with your kids:

    Dear Canucks,
    Thank you for all the fun.

    Thanks for letting me ramble. Be happy to edit at will for the purpose of your blog. I obviously needed to vent and your post was a wee rally cry to vent.

    Thanks,

    Malcolm
    @malchkiey

  2. We can always learn from our youngest students. I believe that they wrote this because of the focus at Kent Elementary School on suporting individual strengths and the positive atmosphere that exists in this school.

  3. Chris,

    Nice,simple post. In the most confusing, and often difficult times, kids get it. They have an unfiltered view of the world and will be brutally honest regardless of prompting. Those kids get it and that is why we teach, I think. We want our kids to keep that mentality for as long as possible.

    Thanks!

    Josh

  4. Today we looked at photos of the game and the riot in class. One of the 10-y-o students I teach asked, “How do you think the Canucks players feel about the riots?” The answer, from another student, “They are probably really sad that people are destroying their city.”

  5. Malcolm, once again, thank you for what you have done for the city!!!

    Simply, you have understated your contribution. Having seen first-hand what you did that night. You were the inspiration for my attempts to stop them. I was leaving when I saw you standing up to rioters and up-righting newspaper boxes…

    I’m not sure I wouldn’t have just left if I didn’t see your brave actions.

    Thank you,
    For and from our city,

    Vic
    @VicLJ

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