“What is the world coming to?” an older man sitting at a booth said to his wife across the table. “Another school shooting, another tragedy in Colorado.”
“The government has got to get a grip on all of this,” replied the grey-haired woman. “We should be arming teachers…”
“Yet we are about to endure another attack on our second amendment!” chuckled the man as he finished his wife’s thought.
I had just walked into a Village Inn with my mother on the north side of Denver when I overheard that conversation. The old couple was nonchalantly talking about the horrific shooting that happened at Arapahoe High School on Friday, December 13th. I immediately became nauseated. Although I do not teach at AHS, I have deep connections to the school – I coach the softball team, I have many former students who attend, and several of my friends work there. The middle school where I teach is just down the road and most of our kids will be Arapahoe Warriors in the future. On this day, the day after the shooting, I was only just beginning to process the shock and realization of what my kids, their parents, and my friends had to go through during and after the shooting.
Such a casual mention of the terrible tragedy made me sick to my stomach. It also brought forth a variety of emotions as I began to feel sad, angry, helpless, upset, powerless, and anxious. The conversation I overheard, however, also got me thinking about the repercussions for schools in the future.
After the investigation is done, the dust starts to settle, and the healing process slowly beings, questions will arise about the prevention of such acts in the future. What next? How can we stop this from happening again? People will advocate for new, strict laws and legislation to be written about gun control, while others will furiously fight against those same laws. Superintendents and principals will continue to figure out ways to make their schools safer. High tech buzz-in systems may be required at every school. Schools that allow students to have an open lunch and leave campus could be required to keep the doors locked, disallowing random Starbucks dates and Chipotle runs. Police cars will frequent school parking lots and schools might increase the amount of armed security guards on duty. I am sure that the argument to arm teachers will be thrown into the mix again as well. Teachers will undergo further lock down and crisis management training. Even with all of those possible changes, students and parents will be as apprehensive as ever about school. Schools will continued to be less like schools and more like bunkers.
The above solutions, of course, are all reactionary measures which do not focus on prevention or eliminating the actual problem. In order to find and begin to fix the real issue, we as a society must admit that there is a problem in the first place.
There is so much hate in the world today, and a child does not have to travel far to see it. Democrats and republicans are constantly berating each other on national news. Sports fans are stabbing each other in parking lots…there is racism, discrimination, gang violence and bullying at school. Many students either come from divorced families or have friends who come from divorced families; unfortunately, sometimes students understand just how uncivil divorced parents can be. The news can be depressing, and America has essentially been at war for the entire lives of my middle school students. At an early age, our students are forced to drink the glasses of pessimism, cynicism, and hate rather than optimism and love.
Maybe the answer to the problem is actually quite simple.
Maybe the answer is not new legislation.
Maybe the answer is not high tech security systems at every entrance of a school.
Maybe the answer is not arming teachers with weapons.
…Maybe, as educators and as a society we have missed something very fundamental…
Maybe it is time that we as a educators stop focusing quite so much attention on standardized-tests, teacher effectiveness bills, and continual budget cuts, and start focusing on the rudimentary reason many people get into the teaching profession in the first place: to love…to care for kids…to be a positive role-model…to make a positive impact. It might sound cliche, but maybe all we really need is love. Maybe as a society we should stop focusing so much attention and media on negativity, drama, and sheer hatred, and try a little harder to be kind to each other…and I don’t mean just your friends and family, but every single person.
Unfortunately, there is no box to check on the self assessment for teacher effectiveness that says, “this teacher positively impacts and loves students on a regular basis,” and if there is, then it needs to be emphasized in a much greater manner. Maybe its time to think about a slightly different approach to what is truly important for education within this country. I am going to walk into school tomorrow and continue to foster the relationships with students who I already have good relationships with, and work throughout the next semester to build relationships with all of those kids that I haven’t reached on as much of a personal level yet. Building positive relationships with most students is not good enough and I am going to make sure I improve.
Arapahoe’s motto is, “Warriors always take care of each other.” What if we all as a society actually took that statement to heart and implemented it into our daily lives. What if we were to start displaying love even more than we already do; love as parents, as children, as neighbors, as friends, as teachers, etc.. What if every member of society took it upon themselves to go out of their way to make everyone around them feel loved?
Maybe there would not be anymore bullying at schools.
Maybe there wouldn’t be another kid so fed up with life that he/she has notions of a mass school shooting.
Maybe there would not be an innocent, young Arapahoe student battling for her life in the hospital. (#PrayforClaire)
Maybe, just maybe, schools could become schools again.
“No one is born hating another person because of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela
The answer is quite simple…are we willing to accept it?