Friday, February 16, 2018

From the FRONT Lines

I had to stand in front of my students the past two days and go over with them how in the situation of an active shooter we had three doors and fourteen windows to secure as quickly as possible. The scared look on their faces as I gravely reminded them of the very real threat we face today in our schools is one I won't easily forget. As a student mentioned, "It's scary how NOT far fetched the reality of this happening has become."

That reality is what has me sad, worried, and downright angry. This should NOT be the state of America! This is NOT the kind of America I want my kids to grow up in! This is NOT what I got into teaching for! This is absolutely unacceptable. I'm upset about this as an educator and as a parent, and we need some real solutions, not ridiculous political bickering where we all talk in circles until the moment passes and then we drop it again until the next shooting occurs.

This is a serious epidemic for our children. They ARE NOT SAFE. They are not safe when they go with the friends to the movies. They are not safe when they go hang out with their friends at the mall. They are not safe even when they go to school every day. These mass shootings are occurring in places where our children are NO LONGER SAFE. Yet I will continue to send my children out into these unsafe places. You will continue to send your children out. We will continue to send our children out into UNSAFE environments!  I'd like to think I'm being dramatic or that my emotions are just on overdrive and ruling any rational thought I may have. But maybe we haven't let our emotions move us towards change enough. Maybe it's that suffocating sadness, anger, and fear that will drive us to change.

I began my journey into education almost twenty years ago, a year and a half after Columbine. Never did I imagine a time where people would be having real conversations about arming teachers. I can't believe I just said that because people really believe that is the solution here- to arm teachers. I grew up with guns, I know how to shoot and handle a gun, and we are gun owners, but if I wanted to carry a gun to work every day I would have went into the military or police academy. You want teachers who have never had the mental or physical training to be the front line of defense in our streets or in our wars to now be our front line of defense in the biggest war on our children! Really, does that sound like the greatest change to make?

Why don't we put our military veterans to work as guards around our schools. Government wants to talk big about caring about veterans and our children- put them to work in front of our schools and we work towards solving two problems. Yes, that is definitely going to cost money but supposedly these are two of the most important things to our government. Though I like the idea of putting veterans to work and giving them the opportunity to be find themselves a purpose and sense of belonging in a school community we have to have greater solutions than fighting gun violence with more guns.

Yes, I could too make a case for our gun laws being evaluated with how easy it so to obtain a gun and do we really need a military gun on the market, but we have a cultural problem here too that needs to be addressed, people. We have created a cultural mentality that going into a busy area and shooting up innocence people is an acceptable way to handle personal frustration and setbacks. That broken mentality doesn't change with changed gun laws. We have to change the mindset. We have to change the people. We have to change ourselves and we have to be the change.

Education policy has stripped us of school discipline and accountability of students in so many ways, yet we think the answer is to arm teachers to now shoot their possible students. We can barely discipline them but we should now be expected to shoot them? The changes over the years of  trying not to suspend because it looks bad for data numbers, the policies of not taking their phones and forcing them to disconnect for a few hours, or the we can't penalize them for late assignments, and honestly the list of all the policy changes that have taken discipline and accountability of education away, I hate to say, has a role in what we're seeing.

Not only are students not given discipline or expected accountability anymore but parents need to be held accountable for the behaviors and actions of their children. It is scary the number of physical altercations I could recite from the family and friends I know that work in public education. Parents don't feel any more sense to discipline or hold their kids accountable than the kids themselves because as a society we don't hold anyone accountable anymore. Though I'm not in the criminal justice system I've heard scary policy changes of not even holding criminals as accountable as we once did. Why not do whatever the hell you want to do if the consequences are so little?

I've preached for a long time that required parenting classes should be a must for parents of troubled youth. Do you know how many parents over the past fourteen years  I've talked to that don't know what to do about their troubled youth? Some parents didn't have the greatest parent models themselves, or they just lack the resources or support they need to figure out this parenting thing so give them the help that some of them so desperately want. Invest some money in teaching parents how to parent! Invest some consequences in holding parents accountable for raising respectful citizens.

While we're investing money in education and change that might make a difference how about some classes that teach kids things like empathy, coping skills,  civil discourse, peer mediation? Or programs in schools that actively combat bullying and raise awareness and resources for mental health?

Changed education policy of the past two decades I believe too is just widening the gap between the haves and the have nots. We are either dismissing the troubled and struggling students by not enforcing discipline or accountability and making loop holes for them to "get through" so it looks good on our school numbers. Or we are drowning the achievers and go getters in unrealistic expectations and pressure to perform on the athletic fields and in the classrooms at a level beyond decades ago because again it looks good for school numbers. They're pressured with the idea that to have a good life more, more, and more is needed of them. Both of these extremes I believe are contributing to the mental health crisis of today. Again, all government or education policy is concerned about are their damn numbers and not our kids. The kids are just their pawns, and now they have become their victims.

The reality of this is downright scary. There are so many problems to fix, but we waste our time pointing fingers so let's stop pointing fingers and make some real change. While we wait on government and policy to fight over who is to blame I get up every morning to go off to one school, while my husband goes to another, and  my two daughters go to a different one. Across the country I have countless friends that walk out that door too to also head to their schools; I have two cousins, a sister, and an aunt that all head off to school every morning. My friends' kids and my nieces and nephews head off to school every morning. There are countless schools across this nation where someone I know and care about goes each day. The reality that one day, that breaking news story of another school shooting , is going to be their school is getting closer and closer the longer we do nothing. When someone is military or police or you marry into the military or police life, you know it comes with the expectation that you or the person you love may not make it home. This is now all of our realities. I get that no one is promised another day or even another moment. Something can happen to any of us at any time, but here in America we now have to worry about death by the violence of bullets in our own classrooms. This is NOW our reality. This is now our children's reality!

Our government has failed us. Absolutely failed us and put our children in the line of fire in front of a hail of bullets. So to wait on our government to protect us at this point seems a loss cause. We can't wait. We need to be talking to our the leaders in our schools. What security protocols needs to be updated in the building? Figure out a way to raise those funds asap. What programs are in place for mental health? What programs are in place for parents of troubled students? How are students being held accountable and taught to get overcome failure and setbacks? WE DO THEM NO FAVORS BY NOT LETTING THEM FAIL. Start talking and start working together in our communities. The change starts with us.

To make change is going to take some money, it's going to take voices, it 's going to take ACTION.
But what do I know? I'm just a teacher, a teacher on the front lines of a war against our children.

It's time to step up, America, and do the right thing for our kids' futures.


1 comment:

  1. My heart is breaking for you! But I love your determination and passion!