Some of you may have seen my post on Facebook on Tuesday about the school shooting. I really can’t do much better than that, but I can share with you how the discussion in my class went yesterday.
Each day, we have a morning meeting where we talk about what’s happening with our day, things coming up, and just anything the kids want to discuss. I use this time (a lot) to do impromptu social and emotional learning (SEL) lessons, too. Yesterday, we talked about the shooting.
The first question that came up was: “Why would he do that?”
The young man who asked it is sharp and vivacious and full of life. I couldn’t help but think that someone like him has been killed in a school because someone else did not have access to mental health care or should not have had easy access to guns or both. He has a wonderful wit and makes other students, and me, laugh quite a bit. His very existence makes this world a better place and there is probably someone out there who is thinking about killing someone like him because his skin is brown.
“Why would he do that, Mr. R?”
I told my student that I didn’t know. I told him that most of us can’t possibly wrap our brains around being so mad and stressed and frustrated that we would choose to act out by shooting innocent people. I told him that no matter how mad most of us get, we never ever think about ending someone’s life. I told him this is why it is so hard for us to know what to do about it because we can’t understand why someone would act that way.
“Was he mad at someone at the school, Mr. R?’
This was even tougher. I explained that I hadn’t seen any type of explanation and that we may never know. There was a lot of confused expressions on my students’ faces. Again, for most of us, this is so hard to understand. Even they knew it was because he was mad, but we may never know why this person was so upset and angry and wanting to hurt people.
“Could this happen at our school, Mr. R?”
I told them this is why we have so many rules about who can come on campus and when. I reminded them that it is never a good idea to open a school gate unless it is an adult they know and trust. Regularly they will open the closest gate to where I park in the morning for me as I get to school. I could see some of them looking a bit startled at the thought of telling an adult, “No,” but I reminded them that if you feel like someone is trying to trick you, it’s okay to trick them back.
Our discussion, after that, revolved around what they had heard about the incident and if there were second grade students involved. One student said they tried to think about how the children at the school might have felt (Empathy lessons work, people!) and said he would be very sad if it happened at our school. I couldn’t have been prouder of him.
The truth of the matter, though, is that it could easily happen at my school. While we have protocols in place, a lot of students would happily open one of the gates to any adult who was standing outside of it. We have so many substitute teachers that just about anyone could say they were there to teach and be carrying guns with them. Even if someone didn’t come through a gate, it wouldn’t take much to hop the fence.
I’ve been going in and out schools for the better part of the last 25 years. In that time, only one school out of hundreds ever asked to see my fingerprint clearance card.
Let that sink in. I was there to work with children, usually for a full day, and only one school ever said, “Hey, can we see your fingerprint clearance card?” Why wouldn’t every school want to see that of anyone spending time on their campus working with their students? If I were a principal, I would insist that my office staff ask for this any time someone new came to the school to do some work with kids.
I will say that the schools in Kyrene would always want me to show my driver’s license, even when they knew who I was, before I could get buzzed into the school. That’s way better than most. Most schools had me sign in, of course, but only a very few asked for any type of identification. This is not a good look when people are shooting up schools. Sadly, it can happen at any school, any time.
For most of us who work at schools that have not had an incident, we don’t have the time during the day to think about ‘what if’ scenarios. We talk about lockdowns and such at the beginning of the year, but at my current school, we have not had a lockdown since very early in the year when someone’s parent who was not supposed to be on campus showed up. My kids probably don’t remember what to do in the case of a lockdown by this point.
Liam and Teresa have had a few actual lockdowns and it is scary to get those notifications. Being that their school is home to many LGBTQ kids, I must admit I’ve had the thought that it could be a target to some idiot out there. This is the world we live in, and it sucks.
I have hope for the next generations, though. I have reason to believe this can be put behind us with some painful growth and honesty. I watched the brave young dude from Florida give his speech at his commencement ceremony recently and talk about his “Curly hair.” If you haven’t checked that out, you should.
That, and vote with your souls, people. Don’t vote for who the NRA tells you to vote for. They don’t care who gets shot if guns and ammo keep selling.
See you tomorrow.