I have waited to comment on the nightmare that occurred in Parkland, FL.
At first, it was shocking...and the words "Not Again!"
The next morning I watched the news as I got ready to head to school. I had to sit and catch my breath. I cried. I cried because I can't imagine what it felt like to be those teachers. Keeping composed, protecting those young lives, all the while trying not to think of what might happen to them.
As I got to school it was not much different than after Sandy Hook. My classroom is the very first one as you come in. I know I have to think of the 'What if?'. I walked in and I locked the door and I looked around. What furniture can I move quickly? What can I stack against the door that would create a bigger barrier? Then I stop, snap out of it I tell myself.
As the day progresses, my mind continues to wander... "...push the desk in front, then the bookshelf."
Snap out of it.
I look at all the kiddos working in their centers carefree, no worries other than what time is recess.
How do I bargain with first graders to keep quiet if shots are fired? Will metal desks protect my kids if we stack them?
Snap out of it.
Well, I can't snap out of it. This is our new reality. For every teacher out there, this is a new normal. Code Red drills are just like Fire Drills now.
This is beyond gun control laws. This is a societal problem that continues to grow and be ignored. This is a problem that involves how we see Education and how we fund Education and how we treat those who are in the trenches of Education. This is a problem with medical benefits for those suffering with mental illness or the parents of students who are suffering with mental illness. This is a problem on how we help and see those who are suffering with mental illness. But ABOVE ALL....ABOVE ALL...this is a problem of who wins politically. And frankly I don't care right now. I care that we FIX IT. Like the father at the town hall ( https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/22/politics/andrew-pollack-white-house-listening-session/index.html ). FIX IT....
No more bandaids.... no more it's the NRA, no it's the President, no it's the House, no it's the Senate.
FIX IT!!!!!!! Yes, I am yelling. Fix this problem. Put the resources into our children and our future. Help the teachers and the children and the parents. HELP! Pull up your shirt sleeves and come together to fix this for our future.
Those of us teaching for 20 or more years know that the culture has changed. Our children have changed. Guns haven't changed. Laws haven't changed. But how we are raising our children has. What we are able to provide them has.
Our children are exposed to more through technology. Our children have been desensitized to violence. Our children are desensitized to human contact. Our children are being diagnosed increasingly with different mental health problems...Anxiety leading the pack. Parents are less involved and less present in their children's lives. Parents are quicker to blame society and educators than to assume responsibility for their children's actions. Parents are happier to bury their heads in the sand than to see clearly the trouble their children are heading in. Competition is no longer healthy, it's done and beat or be left behind. I have seen it in inner city schools and in privileged schools.
BUT, then we have parents who are struggling to get the help they need. But we can't help them. Their schools don't have the resources. The insurance companies are playing numbers games. Look up I am Adam Lanza's mother and you will read countless mother's who know they have a child who needs help. Yet, they are not able to secure the help they need. They are literally turned away.
We need to take our society back.
I am not sure how it looks like or what it looks like. But I DO KNOW THIS...it's more than gun control...that's a small bandaid on a garden hose that's leaking in every different direction. We need more conversation that leads back to family and values. We need more help for our children. WE NEED TO TAKE THE VILLAGE BACK.. We need to be present for our children. We need to be aware of what our children are doing. We need to put pressure on our politicians not just for the enforcement of current gun laws but also to demand better mental health coverage.
Those who know me know I live, breathe, read, write, education. I love what I do. And I am a lifelong learner.
As a teacher, a new year brings new promises. You are so filled with optimism for the new year and what you might accomplish. During those first few weeks, you assess and re-assess to see where your children are. You need to know the baseline. You need to know where to begin teaching. You need to know what they know and what they need to know.
Some years you get a student, and you think: "Wow, how am I going to get him/her to where they need to be?"
Personally, I love this challenge. I love trying to figure out the puzzle of how to help this child.
Sometimes, well a lot of times, students come with baggage. The baggage of paperwork. There are two schools of thought. Don't read the paperwork and form your own ideas. Read the paperwork and formulate a plan. I normally will read the paperwork to figure out the plan.
I once had a student who came to me with quite a binder of paperwork. The future looked bleak according to the write-up. He had numerous disabilities. He had not had a positive school experience the year prior. The paperwork really worried me. I knew I had several jobs.
1- Establish trust with him. He needed to know it was a clean slate and his disabilities did not define him or his position in my room.
2- Read. Read. Read. Figure out how can I break through and help this child learn to like school again. To feel safe at school.
3- Encouragement.... build his courage. Build my courage. Build a classroom environment where he was valued and encouraged.
4- Make sure the classroom is balanced and no other child feels slighted by my attention to this student.
But, then you see it. You see the child shed what he was before he walked in. You see the child grow into who he is and who he should be. A smiling child who loves to come to school. Who was afraid of trying, who now trusts that he can try, he can do it. He will not be cured of his disabilities. But he will not become them, he will learn how to live with them positively. And if I do my job right he will learn to advocate for himself.
BUT please...future teacher...DON'T COUNT HIM OUT!
Wife, Mom, Educator and Lifelong Learner