I wake yet again, with a heavy heart as I think of all of the children, all of my dear friends, colleagues, young moms, dads and yes, even myself who will walk into a school building today. I have to be honest, each time there is a school shooting I become hyper aware of the brick and mortar I am entering. I look left, I look right, I take a deep breath and hope that you asking for my ID behind the locked doors is enough to keep us all safe. I try to take solace in the fact that so many of YOU are in the building already and that on this day we will all remain safe. It is a risk and one that becomes more and more immediate and, one that is absolutely absurd, one that I will continue to take, as will all of you.
I come from an age where public school buildings were just that, open to the public. You could drive up, walk into the office at any time of the day with no buzzers, no ID, no nothing. The freedom of those times is not lost on me. That freedom is what we must work our way back to, but as my Dad said on 911, “things are forever changed”. Boy was he right. I just never knew it would continue to get worse and worse. As my career shifted and changed and I moved from one school to many I slowly saw this change of “security” as I encountered one locked door after another. My initial and lasting thoughts are of sheer frustration. I hate the idea of kids behind locked doors. I am annoyed at having to “prove” myself every time I wanted to enter as someone who would do no harm. I know I “should” be happy that these procedures are in place, but I am not. At every turn we lose one right after another and all in the name of fear. And my greatest fear is that we will continue to move in this direction, arming teachers, installing metal detectors and officers before we look at and address the root of the problem. It is time to say NO!
I started watching The Handmaid’s Tale, adapted for a TV series from a book that I read in college, a book that remains torn and tattered on my shelf from those days in the 80’s when I read it and reread it, in sheer disbelief. For me it was one of THOSE books that haunts you for life. The TV adaptation is well done as it is put in more modern times, but to be honest, it frightens me because all of the characters are saying what we are saying about what is going on in this world right now. “They can’t DO this” shout the woman as they lose their bank accounts, their jobs, their livelihood as they drink a bottle of wine together after being escorted out of their jobs one after another.
I flash to my book group where we all discuss the absurdity of what is happening in this country and yes, we are drinking our wine and agreeing with each other, but I can’t help but think about what is going on behind closed doors and how, honestly, powerless I feel. When did WE become so powerless? I have done the marches, I have written and sent my postcards, and I will continue to work to get the right people in office …but to what end? It just doesn’t feel like enough. It NEVER feels like enough. We KNOW Russia intervened with the election and still…NOTHING happens….yet.
In walk these amazing kids from Stoneman Douglas High. For the first time since November (you know which November I mean) I have begun to unearth some hope rising inside of me. It has to be THIS generation with fire in their bellies, that (with millions of 18 year olds who will be eligible to vote this year) need to show up. They did not show up at our last election, disenfranchised with the process and rightly so, but ultimately action is more effective than inaction.
At the same time I feel the need to apologize to all of those generations younger than me that we did not do an adequate job at keeping this country united and safe for all of you.
At a local elementary school this week I was about to have class when a 5-minute emergency staff meeting was called. It was to address the upcoming scheduled walk out in March for 17 minutes; one minute for each child gunned down in Florida. As this is an elementary school they were working to make sure that, if teachers wanted to participate then that was their right and they would work to make that happen. What I appreciated even more was the fierce message that we must protect our kids and that although some may know about what is going on, that many others may not and that protecting their innocence is of utmost importance. While I appreciated this open dialogue I was once again saddened that this had to be a topic. Period.
We chose a career, many of us out of passion; one that was fascinating to us as we work to learn to understand the inner workings of children: the minds and hearts of these little beings that come into our care each day. The kids we each take home with us, the ones that we mull over as we are in the shower, driving to school, the ones who perplex us, the ones who hug us. We are in the trenches each and every day trying to make a difference but the distractions of the world are slowly taking over keeping us from doing what we need to do. Our schools are far from perfect, but the right to an education is what is at stake here. We NEED to preserve this institution to ensure a fair and equal education for ALL in SAFE spaces. Not just the rich and the famous and the lucky, but also the poor, the unknown and the not so lucky. We are so much better than what plays out every day on the media. We just are. And fighting for the rights of each individual is just something we have to do. There is no other choice when you sit in a 3rd grade classroom and watch a teacher read aloud to a group of students who are enthralled with the reading of Wonder, as they discuss empathy, caring, understanding and what it means to be an outcast or when you see a kindergartener make her own book that she is dying to share with you or when you see a table of first graders giggling at Captain Underpants together or when you see 6th graders confer with their teacher on the Civil Rights movement giving voice to how they are personally discriminated against. This all matters. What you do matters. Don’t forget that in the wake of all that tries to undermine that.
I never thought shooter drills would be part of the curriculum or the need of a police officer to be part of staff or surveillance cameras would be so present or that schools would need to consider metal detectors. What happened to the safety of education? It is so, so sad.