On February 14th, 2018 the unimaginable took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida when 17 people lost their lives to an act of school violence. I, for one, can not imagine the pain and anguish those in the school and surrounding community feel. As the country moves forward, many are asking some difficult questions on ways to end school violence: Should teachers carry weapons? Should America ban high-powered military and police grade weapons for civilian use? Should we raise the gun age to 21? What about the 2nd Amendment? The questions go on and on. One quick glance on Facebook will result in hundreds of opinions on the topic.
For me, we are asking the wrong questions. As a society, we have a lack of trust in humanity resulting in FEAR. In my opinion, what better place is there to care and nurture our youth than in schools? How can we continue to push for all students to be “heard” while also allowing them to discover their strengths and unique abilities? How can we develop meaningful and collaborative relationships allowing students to solve real-world problems? How do we foster each student as an individual who feels connected to a greater community? How do we support students who have high ACE scores and provide an environment where they feel safe and supported? How can we create personalize learning plans where students can discover and explore content and information which they are interested in or never before knew existed? How can we create post-secondary plans for college, the work force, military enlistment, etc. for every student? I believe if we, as a society, discuss these questions our schools would foster individuals who TRUST humanity and support one another.
As this country heals, we will continue to drill crisis management plans, sharpen our practices, communicate with our stakeholders, learn new instructional strategies, develop systems of support for all students, among others, to keep us safe. These are necessary and we will get better however, my hope and plea is simple: lets discuss the questions listed in the second paragraph rather than the first. A couple of days ago I came across the following tweet from Marcey Raymond Kusper which summarizes my thoughts clearly:
“In class today, the topic of school protests came to honor the 17 victims of the Florida Shooting came up. One of my students said, “I think it’s stupid. How about you make friends with 17 kids you wouldn’t normally instead of walking out of school.” What a great conversation came out of it. Smile at 17 people you normally wouldn’t smile at, say a kind work to 17 people who might not have had someone to speak to, open your heart to 17 people who might be hurting, offer friendship to 17 people who might have had none. Now that could change the climate of the school. 17 reasons for change….. 17 reasons to make a difference. Whats your 17??? I like that slogan. Today warmed my heart to be a teacher. #whatsyour17“
For me, I have hopes and dreams for my children, my community, and my country to live in a world which is free of violence. A world of genuine care and compassion. A world working together to ensure the safety and well-being for generations to come. We all have unique abilities and together, we can solve the greatest of problems. School Violence? WE WILL END IT!