This one goes out to all of the passionate educators who raise our nation’s children, and to all the heavy hearts wearing heavy boots.
I’ve struggled a lot over the last few days on whether or not to post this. I’m not usually one to get political, or rock the boat, or to get people up in arms. But I am personally up in arms, and I’m having a hard time. Is anyone else wearing heavy boots? I explained the heavy boots thing in this post . The recent world events and school shootings, which should not be plural, have been weighing so heavily on me these past few days and I can’t write a joyful post about clothes or coffee or happiness because I’m just feeling really let down by society right now.
I am incredibly passionate about people, and I do believe that there is beauty and goodness in the world. I have to. There are beautiful things happening in front of us every single day. But working in the education system, and more specifically in a public high school, has made these events and this topic hit very close to home, and I feel like I’ve been carrying something around that keeps getting heavier and heavier.
I’m not sure when exactly a teacher’s job description shifted to include needing to protect the lives of children and adolescents in the event of a deadly shooting attack. I remember in high school having my first ever code red lockdown drill after the tragic events at Columbine, and thinking it was so weird and scary to be pretending like something like that was happening at our school. As high school juniors and seniors, we scrunched up behind our teacher’s desk with all the blinds shut, giggling and acting like it wasn’t a real issue, and if it was, it was certainly one that would never touch us. But here it is, over 10 years later, still happening, ever-present. And now, as an adult, every year when we have our annual lockdown drill at school, I shove my students into a closet and lock the doors and shut the blinds and turn off the lights and feel my heartbeat race, even though it’s just a drill. There is an eerie presence of this terrifying reality even in our preparation and training for an event that we pray will never come.
We continue to put band-aids on things without dealing with the root cause of the issue. Violence is not the answer to violence. Arm me with a deadly weapon?! How is this even an INKLING of a thought? Arm me with a school culture that is safe and nurturing, arm me with policies that keep people from purchasing automatic assault weapons. Arm me with mental health resources for children who I can sense, as someone who spends a lot of time getting to know them, are on the verge of a mental breaking point and are in serious, urgent need of attention RIGHT NOW. Not tomorrow, not next week when the paperwork goes through. Arm me with a reassurance that this chronic mental health crisis in our nation is getting the attention it deserves and that the stigma we place on mental health issues is going to change. Arm me with a system that listens and reacts when warning signs are documented and vocalized instead of waiting until it’s too late. Arm me with all of those things, and so many more, but do not place the ridiculous responsibility of carrying a gun at school on our teachers who already have overflowing lists of responsibilities that we can’t possibly keep up with.
It would be silly to say that this isn’t a political debate. Of course it is – policy brings change, and policy means politics. But maybe we should try to look at it as a human race stance rather than a political one: No matter who our leader is, no matter what your political beliefs are, the fact of the matter is that we, as a nation, have a serious problem. This is a systemic and societal problem that is intertwined in so many layers, and it is too complicated to fix immediately, and I think that is why it’s so hard for me. It’s no one’s fault, and it’s everyone’s fault. It’s hard to see a system with good intentions fail our kids, and it’s hard to watch and feel helpless when world events occur that we should have been able to prevent. I saw a Facebook post of a friend recently that has really resonated with me – it’s hard to take a side when this issue is so intertwined. This is not just a gun issue. It isn’t just a mental health issue, or an education issue, or a society issue. It is all of these things and more, left alone to mingle for too many years without change or action and without enough resources, and now here we are, with a mountain in front of us that no one knows how to move. So we’ve just been circling, and I truly hope that we are on the verge of finding a way up. That we are on the edge of banding together to make something real happen for the betterment of our future.
I love my job. I believe that the work I do on a daily basis is worth something. I love watching these students grow and develop into adults who will hopefully be productive members of society and bring positive change. I will never stop believing that the work educators do, day in and day out, is monumental and in some cases, literally life-changing for children and adolescents. They need us, and they need you, and they need a lot of support. They need hope, they need a voice, they need education to help them find their way, and above all of that, they need to feel safe and secure in their schools, especially when many do not feel safe or secure in their homes. I still believe that there is beauty and magic in the world, because without that belief, these things would be too heavy to carry.
Last night, after writing all this, I attended a teacher appreciation dinner one of my students invited me to. Sometimes the good stuff comes just in time. It lifted my spirits in ways I can’t explain, to just sit and be honored in such a sweet way, and to realize that in some small way, I am doing something. But there is still so much left to be done.
flowers from the teacher appreciation dinner, and a beautiful reminder of good things in this world