School is home for me. I grew up in a world of overflowing bookcases and sturdy desks, inspired by the women and men who sacrificed time with their own children to ensure that the children of others were cared for. I never questioned that I would answer the call to serve others in the same personal and compassionate way. Raised by a long line of educators, my memories of childhood, of family are so tightly intertwined with the public school that it’s hard to consider the place I teach each weekday a mere place of employment. My parents work together in the same school community. My husband and I fell in love on the sidelines of a high school basketball court. We received the news that our beautiful son had been born during a school day, and very soon that sweet boy will attend the same public school that is so very important to me. All the best pieces of my personal life are tied to this place; it is more than a job.
So when I read the news stories and social media commentary on yet another school shooting, I read it in the most personal way possible. I see that the athletic director lost his life, and it’s not a far reach in my mind to imagine my husband stepping in to protect the lives of his student-athletes. I see parents grieving their deceased child, and it’s not hard to imagine being right there beside them, broken. But when I, as a teacher, try to wrap my mind around being the last line of defense between a lethal weapon and my students, my kids…I’d lay down my life for them. I’m not brave; I’m human. Children are worth protecting, but why is that even a consideration I have to make when I kiss my family goodbye in the morning?
I’ve cried about it, thought about it, raged about it. What happens now? Now that mass shootings are the “new normal”? What do I do? I’m not asking any sweeping, philosophical questions about “What do we as a society do?” That’s too much to wrap my brain around at this second. I need to know: what do I, a teacher whose entire immediate family also spends every week day at a public school, do tomorrow? And the next day? My whole being is tied up in a system that I feel powerless to protect, one that is impacted by the actions and opinions of people who have no personal investment in it. I want results. I’ve HAD IT with everyone passing the buck: if we had better mental health care, if we had more parental involvement, if we had stronger gun laws, if we had less exposure to violent video games, and if [insert political party here] would just…
Enough is enough. The safety of our schools and our children falls on ALL of us. Like it or not, public schools are an entity of the government, so many aspects of the solution will lead back to politics. We have to find our civil voices again. We have to learn to communicate through strife and controversy without alienating and belittling others.
Most importantly, it’s time to do something, something other than using a hashtag and feeling sorry. We must take a logical look at the common factors contributing to these mass shootings and address them swiftly. In the days to come, I want to encourage you to remember this: this is a human issue, but a systemic one as well. There are no easy answers, but that doesn’t mean the answers aren’t worth looking for.
Much love to you, dear reader. I hope you’ll raise your voice for our kids, too.