Last week, we saw the world glance at a CNN notification on their phone: a new school shooting. 17 this time. Suspect was “deeply troubled.” The conversation turned towards the usual: thoughts and prayers. Mental health. Not the time. Let them grieve. Not the time. When is the time to talk?
The amazing shift, after this shooting, however, was the response of the children. Finally someone is loudly calling out their politicians on “giving them time to grieve.” They understand that the best way to honor those who were slaughtered and their families is to ensure that it can happen to no one else. That involves adopting (at the very least) common sense gun control. A ban on bump stocks. Keeping hands off semi-automatic weapons outside of shooting ranges. Background checks. Waiting periods.
On March 24, these children, their teachers, and their parents will march in support of their lives. The March for Our Lives campaign asks the question: what’s more important, the lives of children or the ability to access a gun? I wish that it was an easier question for some people. I encourage everyone to attend the event if they can, donate to the cause, call representatives, and vote with their conscience. There are people way smarter than me already doing incredible things for this cause, such as a colleague of mine working to lobby local Wisconsin representatives on banning bump stocks.
All of this chaos and destruction makes me think about my work as a teacher. When I was a sophomore in college, I was first introduced to the idea of being prepared for an active shooter scenario. We drilled each day on what to do if there was a shooter in the hallway, at the door, down the hall. It became rote memorization so that we could fly into action if it ever needed to. My professor became the role model for the class, saying she would be our first line of defense. As a teacher, I know that that is my role now.
It’s crushing to think that putting myself between a gun and my children is at the top of my job description. It’s exhausting to stand in front of students and speak about Romeo and Juliet when I’m actually checking out the hallway where I just heard a locker close. How many seconds would it take to get to the door? How heavy is my cart and would it be a good barricade? If I threw my coffee mug really hard, would my kids have a chance to rush the shooter with me – or would I be able to take them down on my own? As someone with anxiety, perhaps I feel these feelings more acutely than others. But I know I’m not alone.
You want our kids to get higher test scores and surpass kids around the world?
Remove the fear.
Remove the fear from the students who come to school through metal detectors and know a kid who knows a kid who brought a weapon yesterday. Remove the fear from teachers who get bad vibes from one student but don’t know how to get that student help. Remove the fear from parents who know their kids are in a “tough school, or from the moms who cried when Newtown cried, even though their kids were hundreds of miles away from the violence.
In the next few days, I’m going to be talking about the climate in schools, the role of teachers, restorative justice, and other topics related. I thought I could get them all in one post, but I just can’t.