After the shooting at the Planned Parenthood in Colorado and hearing a mother recall speaking with her daughter while the shooter was active in the building telling her to hide and then having to hang up, I began to cry. I never want that phone call to have to happen to my mother.
Then there was the shooting in San Bernadino. The horrors of that event told too well in the media so that you are left with a strong visual of the scene.
After these shootings and learning that the number of mass shootings in this country numbers above 150 in this year alone I began to think in a very serious way about my own and my students’ safety. I’ve been debating what our safety plan is since we are the very first classroom in the building. Our two windows look out on the front entrance and there isn’t much space for our class to hide. Can you believe I even have to consider these things? I really can’t.
And then there was the assault on a St Paul public school teacher on Friday by a student. The teacher has been diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury. That is how violent the attack was. Another layer is added to the heaviness of my heart. The sadness I feel for the teacher and his family and the fear I have for my own husband who teaches in a high school in St Paul.
The profession of education has changed greatly since the time when I was a young student looking up to my teachers and dreaming of the day I could lead a class. I believe that we have seen my profession change for a few reasons but I think the number one reason is the overall mental health of this country. Our country’s mental health is poor. We can see this in the community and we can see this in our schools. I am currently working with five students who have experienced worse trauma in their short lives than I have in mine. They continue to witness violence in their homes or their neighborhoods. The police who, in our idyllic children’s books are the kind, helping community members, in reality can often be a threat to the lives of the very people they are supposed to protect, some of them the unarmed family members of these children.
I’ve explained in a past post how hard it is to function responsibly and appropriately within constant chaos and violence. This is what many of our children are growing up in. You may be sitting there thinking, not mine but they are yours. Their all ours.
Last night I reflected with coworkers about educators who are resistant to changing with the changing population of our students. Some educators are not comfortable with the increase of inclusion in our schools. Some do not want to deal with the challenges a child with special needs brings to their classroom or their halls. They don’t seem to understand that even if you remove all of the children with special needs they would still be overwhelmed by students growing up having experienced trauma and witnessing violence as a means to solve problems. I think some educators also want quick fixes which rarely exist.
As educators we need to come together and face this reality. We need to stand and fight for an approach to education that focuses first and foremost on the mental health of our students. And you may say, that is not our job, that is the job of the health profession or the family but we can sit around pointing fingers and not stepping up while we continue to see mass shootings and assaults in our place of work or we can step up and move towards change. I am not just talking about change in our own classrooms or schools but an overall change to the philosophy of education in this country. An overall change of the perceptions of non-educators towards my profession which is a profession and towards teachers as professionals.
And you are probably saying, okay, how are you taking that stand? I don’t know yet. Right now I’m talking with people. I’m listening at trainings and in my classes trying to absorb as much knowledge as I can around mental health, positive supports, dealing with extreme behaviors and creating new learning environments. And perhaps down the road I’ll have another role in all of this.
As I listened to our trainer today talk a bit about his job going into schools in the district, assessing their climates and providing support to increase positive engagement in the schools I thought…maybe something like that is down my road.
The question is, what’s your role in all of this? I know you all are not educators but it is all of our responsibility to change the way we educate our children. So, what are you doing to make an impact?