In Part 1, I worked my way through understanding the violence in Parkland, Florida, how children and young adults are working on a national strategy to combat gun violence in schools, and my personal experience with preparing for this part of my job description. If you haven’t read that one yet, I would encourage you to go there first.
A lot of my work outside of the classroom and college is surrounding Restorative Justice. Recently, my focus has been prisons and juvenile corrections, but implementing Restorative Justice (RJ) into those facilities really works at treating the symptoms of crime and trying to prevent future violence from offenders. RJ in schools, however, could stop violence before it ever happens at all.
I was surprised and excited to see that one of my favorite teacher podcasts, The Cult of Pedagogy, ran an interview about bringing RJ to schools and plans to do more. If you’d like to read or listen to that, you can click here.
I believe that as a teacher, I am meant to protect the kids. I wish that did not mean standing in front of a literal bullet, as too many teachers have had to face already, but simply standing up for the child and protecting them to the best of my ability from any harm in their lives. Too many children, for example, do not feel safe in their own homes or understood at their schools. They run to gangs or run to the streets where they can find some semblance of a community they are lacking. They desire love, respect, and unity with other people that they do not get anywhere else. If they cannot get it at home, they should be getting it at school. And if more children found schools to be a refuge, perhaps we would see less violence.
This is how Newtown rebuilt itself after their Sandy Hook elementary school was violated in a shooting that killed 26 children and teachers in 2012. They adopted a buddy lunch system, anti-bullying measures, and other community-enriching programs. Their hope was that if more children were reached in a spirit of unity, fewer would be likely to commit violence – whether that was as small as stealing pencils to as large as physical violence. Schools across the country who adopt community based practices, such as Restorative Justice schools, have found evidence that children in those communities exhibit less violent tendencies and are more engaged in academics, activities, and friendships. What if this happened at all schools? Would so many run to gangs? Would more trust the adults to tell their home-life issues? Would fewer turn to weapons, drugs, or alcohol? Would more graduate?
I want to be my students’ first line of defense.
I want to be their first line of defense against bullying. Against hunger. Against abuse. Against assault. Against friendship troubles. Against uncertainty. Against anything. And by adopting this stance of defense for my students, I think that I can actually work to create school climates where shootings will not happen. I think all teachers can.
We need the support to do this, we do. No teacher can change the climate all by his or herself. But with oneness and a sense of hope for all our kids, we can make sure this never happens again.
In my next post, I’ll walk through a few of my ideas for creating this in schools.