My friend, Deven Black, was murdered in a homeless shelter in New York City on Wednesday night, Jan. 27.
To be honest, I'm not sure exactly when I first met Deven, though I am 99 percent sure that we started talking over Twitter and met face to face at Educon, the conference held at Science Leadership Academy every January. Deven traveled from New York, where he lived and taught, to attend.
I never knew that Deven suffered from mental health issues. I know that he was a kind and generous man, that he loved teaching, and that his own education experiences inspired him to speak out about what's best for kids. He shared his thoughts and ideas on his blog, educationontheplate.com. He was an active member of the teaching community online and pushed our thinking greatly. He won a Bammy Award for the amazing work he did transforming his school's library and he was always learning and growing as an educator. He also had a fondness for a good beer.
I scrolled through his Facebook wall looking for clues and was saddened to see a number of posts which, in hindsight, seemed like more than your typical "having a tough day" social media posts. There were a number of well-meaning messages from many of his friends (including me), but rarely did anyone ask "Do you need anything?" or "How can we help?"
I can't shake this feeling that we, the collective teaching community, failed. We let a friend slip through the cracks. We watched a man suffer and offered him a pat on the back instead of asking him what he needed. We posted kind words to a social media profile and assumed that was enough. According to his son, Jonas, Deven was not able to receive the help he needed to treat his mental illness. He wrote this on Facebook: