I was going to get my Weekend Unwind post up this evening. Going to talk about the sewing that I got done and how well it had gone, as well as set my intentions for the week. But.
Then I heard the news of yet another school shooting.
It feels like they happen almost all the time now.
And this one hurts a little.
It happened in Sparks, a place where I spent a lot of my time. I didn’t teach at that school; I drove by it many, many days. I didn’t know the teacher who lost his life trying to diffuse a situation and protect the students in his charge. But I could have. I still know many people who teach for the Washoe County School District, and my heart hurts for them tonight.
My heart hurts for a country who has raised generations of children who feel no sense of place or belonging and who know no other way to create power and agency and control but to take it and destroy those who get in the way. Children so wounded that all they know how to do is wound others.
I don’t know how we fix this situation. I don’t know how we create a society that values our children enough to love them through the hard parts, that presents an example that shows love is the answer.
Perhaps I am struggling so with this because I spent a day in Professional Development with the Efficacy Institute. I’ve always worked with students who are difficult. When I was at Pine, we had our share of affluent students and our share of students that anyone would love to have. But on our team we had those students with learning disabilities, students with behavior and emotional disorders and ESL students. Not easy to teach, not easy to love, not easy to work with. But I always believed that every single one of them was capable of achievement.
Without that belief, there is no point in going into that classroom each day.
And today in this Professional Development session that posited that perhaps what we really needed was a paradigm shift – a belief that all of our students – all of our children – are capable of learning (Brilliance according to the Efficacy Institute) and capable of success – I heard time and time again why we couldn’t get every one to proficiency. Why we couldn’t help some students. Why some students would never be successful. Reason after reason, excuse after excuse.
And my heart hurt. Because with those attitudes, it’s easy to understand why on the National Assessment of Educational Process (NAEP) we’ve not had one subgroup count above 50% of the students as being able to read to learn on grade level.
I wonder who gets to decide which students are the ones that are worthy of our dedication and our efforts and which students we just can’t be bothered with. I wonder why we let our buttons get pushed and then write those students off. I wonder how we wake up in the morning and think, “Oh I’m going to get him today.”
I don’t know how we got to this point. When did we collectively decide that it was OK to not give these children – some of whom fight so many battles before they get to us and then continue to fight the entire time they are with us – our very best every single moment they are with us? And if we didn’t make that decision, when did we decide to stand by and let our colleagues make that decision? Because we don’t get to this point without a whole bunch of people deciding to not speak up or demand better from those around them.
I’m ashamed to admit that I’m one of those who has stood by at times.
And of course, none of this addresses the question of how our children get such ready access to guns. I’m not a gun control nut; I worked for a wholesale firearms distributor while I was working my way through college. You could say that I come from the “gun culture”, with my grandfather holding a Federal Firearms License for awhile and every male in my family enjoying the thrill of the hunt. I think, though, at some point we’re going to have a serious conversation about how we hope to keep our children safe when we refuse to entertain the notion that ready access to firearms is a contributing factor in situations like the one that took the life of Michael Landsberry. I don’t want to take anyone’s guns away; I want to make the lives of students who are vulnerable safer.
My heart hurts tonight. And I don’t know what to do about it. I know that I can walk into my classroom and believe in each child that walks through the door – even when they annoy me. I can encourage my colleagues. Beyond that I don’t have a clue.