There are so many senseless things happening in our world today. It is nearly impossible to read the headlines and not feel a sense of disbelief, despair, or even hopelessness. Following the Florida shootings on Feb 14th, it was hard to not squeeze my children just a smidgen longer as they got ready for school the next morning. To not play through the “what if” scenarios that popped into my mind as my middle-schooler boarded the bus. To not send a quick email to my kids’ elementary teachers reassuring them that we understand the importance of their jobs and we hope they feel loved and supported.
I didn’t do any of it.
Because we need a little light in the darkness. So I chose not to perpetuate the fear, the media, or the chatter. I chose to carry out my day the way I always do. Confident that teachers and administrators are doing everything humanly possible to keep my children safe. Satisfied that teachers know my children well enough to reach out when they need help. Praying that each family in our school community feels a sense of belonging so that, they too, feel they can reach out. Because that is what community is all about.
There is no doubt this tragedy weighed on my heart. I would be lying if I said I didn’t lose sleep over it. The pang in my heart is an indirect empathy for the parents and guardians who lost their children that day. It is a desire to change the outcome and an anger that questions if the support that schools ask for falls on deaf ears.
We need to act instead of react.
The night of the shootings, I kissed my children goodnight. Then, I poured over my lesson plans for the next day debating “how much is too much” to discuss with my students. As much as Florida affected me as a mother, it affected me as a teacher even more. I want to pay tribute to those beautiful children who died too soon. I also need to be a beacon of hope for my own children and students, modeling that they should walk proudly and confidently into their schools, because everyone deserves to feel safe. I want them to know that optimism, hope, and compassion for others should not be trumped by uncertainty, anguish, or inhumanity.
Instead of discussing what happened in Parkland, we discussed how we can be more proactive in our schools and how we can arm our schools with the things they need to help students learn, grow, and become productive members of society. Stop the talk of arming teachers with weapons and continue the talk of arming teachers and students with resources.
The #ArmMeWith movement gives me hope in this darkness.
- Arm our librarians with books so they can get to know their students’ interests and reinforce the importance of free-reading. To imagine a world where students go home and lose themselves in a book instead of a video game or social media that may or may not be acclimating them to violence, spreading gossip, or feeding them unrealistic expectations. (Heck, arm our schools with librarians…they keep “downsizing” them).
- Arm our schools with sufficient counselors on staff. No counselor can handle the “first or last half of the alphabet” with the amounts of mental health issues that accompany our students to school each day.
- Arm our teachers with respect. Stop dictating their every move based off some standardized test score. Teachers don’t define their students by a number and it is becoming difficult to help students realize that they shouldn’t either. Teachers know the person behind the number and how the gifts they have to offer reach far beyond the mark on a test.
I send my children off to school each day without worry. I refuse to live my life in fear and do not want to teach my children or my students to live in fear either. At the end of the day, I sit in awe of the amazing students that I have had in my presence, wondering if the cure for cancer sits within their hands. Knowing the next mathematical equation to change the world may lie in their brains. Questioning how many lives will be changed by the kindness in their hearts. I want to teach them that a few students who permeate the headlines should not overshadow the thousands of students changing our schools for the better each day.
I want to help kids understand that one person can make a difference.
Since before my babies could walk, I have been pretty set on what my goals are for parenting them. From when they were first born and I knew nothing about parenting, to present day where I feel like I know even less about parenting, my goals have not changed. They are twofold: raise children who will make the world a better place and, because I am Catholic; help them get to Heaven. As I teach in a Catholic school, I follow these same rules with my students.
Safety in our schools begins at home. Parents are the first (and most influential) teachers of their children. Though I won’t admit it to my kids, my 6th grader is far superior to me in science and I’m so ready to tap out of this “new math” in 4th grade. However, in our house there will be no child left behind when it comes to teaching kindness, respect, and compassion for others.