School Shootings: A title I never wanted to write.

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!

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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.

the handmaid's tale

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.  2018-01-25-protest-get-up-stand-up-for-your-rights-400-300Not 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.

Too Close To Home

There is something about location that makes everything that much more real.  When 9/11 happened, I had to drive my daughter into Boston for chemotherapy the next day.  Never before have I seen a city so hauntingly empty.  Armageddon had arrived. Eerily there was not anyone on the streets, the roads or out walking.  It was silent.  It was surreal and there is no other reason in the world I would have driven into a major city, except to save my baby’s life.  There was a schedule to hold and this was not going to stop us.

Being there was even more frightening than I had anticipated.  Nestled up in the 17th floor of Mass General I could see vigils going on below.  I sat in our glass high rise with my eyes glued to the TV, watching and waiting to see just what would happen next.

On the third day Emma looked out the window and screamed in fear ,”Momma look, a plane!!”.   I believe it was a military plane.  Somehow we had gotten used to the empty skies.  Planes had always been a past time for us at the hospital as we would go to the corner lounge or what we deemed, the “Looking Room” because it was all glass on two sides facing Logan airport.  We would sit and count planes and make guesses about how many we would see.  But, a plane was no longer a plane anymore, but a flying bomb.

Nothing looked the same. Nothing felt the same.  My mind never stopped and my heart never ached so much.

Nothing made sense anymore…my baby had leukemia and the World Trade Center has been attacked.  Chaos seemed to be the winner in all of this and fear was right behind it urging it on.

And then you fast forward to sitting in a movie theater watching the Dark Night and thinking about what that must have been like for those unsuspecting moviegoers.  There was so much gunfire and loudness in that movie that I bet some were actually unaware of what was even happening…thinking it was part of the movie.  I remember wanting to leave as I felt the spirits of those departed agonizing over how unfair it was to simply go to a movie and then end up never going home.  You realize…it could have been me or my son or you or anyone.

And then this…our schools.  Those little faces.  The sheer terror of those professionals realizing  the practice of lockdown drills and a reality that should never ever come to pass.  But it did.  And in that there are heroes.  Those teachers who put their students above themselves in the “line of duty”.  And I think, what would I have done?  What would you have done?

And so each time I walk into a school I have a new awareness of just how vulnerable those schools are…how vulnerable we all are really.  No measure of security is going to stop that kind of insanity.  And that is what it is…once again something that you just can’t make any sense of.  Something that gnaws at your insides and keeps you up at night.    Something that I spent 10 years of my life working against…the loss of a child.   But teachers all over the country went back into their classrooms on Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday and Friday and will return to the battlegrounds, yet again on Monday.  And what do we do to thank these people?

Let’s remember that we have amazing people out there working with our kids every day…and yes, we have all had that teacher that should have retired years ago and those who should never have been in the classroom to begin with…and we all know who they are, but more than that we have people who have devoted their lives to kids.  It is a great time to sing to the unsung hero.  Thank you child’s teacher today.  Respect what they do and perhaps this is a calling to us all to “see” our kids as human beings where we need to teach empathy and collaboration and allow for creative and artistic expression and that in the big picture standardized tests are completely meaningless.

And in this moment how do we begin to come to terms and ever feel safe again when small children in public schools are being attacked?  How do we reach out and hold those parents who lost their most dear and treasured thing in the world?  I cannot even begin to fathom what those mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers and grandparents and aunts and uncles and teachers and janitors and secretaries and nurses and other children are going through…

They have all realized our greatest fear and this strikes us all in a way that is inconceivable.   We will never be the same.