This is my first diary here, so I pray I did this right.
I teach high school students English. My ordinary day in December changed today when a student walked into my classroom 6th hour and told me there had been a shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut.
I was dismayed, but I also had to teach. I taught the lessons, then after school got other students started on a make up discussion. This was when I looked up what happened online, and wept. I left the classroom so my students wouldn't see and so that they could, at least for a little while longer, be unaware of the evil that had happened.
It's challenging to be a teacher for a variety of reasons; it's also immensely satisfying for many, many reasons. One of the biggest challenges, though, has to be the ugly possibility of a school shooting, which overwhelmingly seems to happen in rural or suburban schools not unlike mine.
I began teaching part-time in 1997 and full-time in 1998. If you know your dates, you know that this was the start of a series of high-profile school shootings: West Paducah, Kentucky; Jonesboro, Arkansas, and then a year later, Columbine. My teacher career began with the specter of random school violence.
Months before Columbine, my school had a bomb threat (I was home sick this day and heard details from my colleague). Many students behaved poorly in the evacuation, complaining and misbehaving in the elementary school we'd evacuated to and even injuring at least one teacher in their rush to leave when the all clear was called. After Columbine, students were somber and grateful that we had practiced lockdowns and evacuations. And me? I'm grateful but also sad beyond measure. I live in a world where these are necessary. I wish they weren't.
Within the past few years, our school's emergency procedures were reviewed by local police, and they pointed out several weaknesses in our lockdown procedures. So now, when I review emergency procedures with students at the beginning of each term, I tell them that, as they go about their day in school, particularly during passing time and lunch, they should think about what they would do if someone started shooting, because teachers had been instructed to lock their doors and not open them in case the shooter was outside. I also had to tell them if they left the building, to watch out for shooters outside, because that has been a pattern in some cases. I even had to warn them about hiding in the bathrooms because with our ultra-modern schools, the automatic flush toilets could undermine them if they hid in stalls. This is when I apologize to students for the world we are in that I have to have a conversation like this with them.
I am someone who needs to find out information to give myself peace. I found this article on mass shootings over the past 30 years to be helpful. It's a compilation of facts and gave me info about what mass shooters are like. Please read it if you think it would help you too.
My school district--the one I teach in and the one in which my sons attend school--sent out a mass phone call to all parents giving us information on how to help our kids make sense of what happened in Connecticut. They included this list of tips from the APA. Again, please read this if you are a parent and will find it helpful. I know I did, because I want to be the one to talk with my kids about what happened. I don't want them to hear about it elsewhere first.
I suppose I'm not the only teacher or parent who is thinking about what I would do if this happened in my or my kids' school. I don't know. I just am overwhelmed tonight by the enormity of this event, and I will be praying a lot: for peace, for understanding, for solutions.