Tragic Takeaways

I sat at my desk yesterday while my students were taking a district assessment. I opened up tweetdeck to see what my PLN was up to on this fine Friday. One of the columns I have in tweetdeck is for news and journalists from around the world. That was when I saw the tweet that changed the course of my day.

Upon reading that tweet I continued to follow the tragedy unfold through social media as well as various news sites. At some point in the afternoon, I just sat at my desk and nearly lost it. Too many images and stories that were being shared were just too much for me. My thoughts went to my own kids who were in elementary schools right then as well as the students sitting in my room.

For my own children, the thought of them having to experience something like the children in Connecticut did yesterday is just too much for me to handle. I cannot even comprehend what those parents are going through nor do I want to try. As I sat in my classroom and looked at the kids in my room, my mind naturally began to race. What would I do if a shooter came into my school building? How would I react? What would I do to ensure my students would be safe and get to see their parents again? As I asked myself these questions I realized that the thought of losing one of my students would be just as painful as losing my own children. I am not sure those that are not teachers can understand this. They just can’t.

As I went on a run this morning, I reflected on the big question, “Where do we go from here?” There are plenty of people shooting their mouths off and sharing their opinions and everyone is entitled to do that. Clearly, I am doing the same. For me, I focused on a few key takeaways from this horrific event.

·         Guns kill people. Our obsession as a country with guns and violence needs to be addressed. Had this man been armed with a knife, this would have been a much different story. Some will say that criminals and thugs will get guns if they really want them regardless of laws. That may be true…but criminals and thugs are not the ones shooting up schools.
·         You don’t have to look far to see the level of exposure young kids have to violence in movies and video games. How many parents disregard ratings and guidelines on such things and expose their children to graphic violence? As parents we have a tremendous responsibility to make sure our children do not see gun violence as normal behavior. We have to be parents.
·         Knee jerk reactions, such as arming teachers or front office staff are not the answer. Rather than putting more guns in schools, let’s put in more counselors and social workers. Let’s shift our focus to helping and healing our students with mental illnesses. Rather than shunning these individuals in schools and in society, let’s instead help them. Let us strive to understand them and support them in any way we can.
·         Let’s address bullying and create loving and tolerant environments within our schools. Character education programs and pep assemblies do little to address a systemic problem of intolerance and lack of empathy in our society. How many of these shooters were picked on, shunned or treated harshly by peers or in some cases teachers?
·         Don’t settle for meaningless tributes as the only way to honor the victims and families. It will take more than a tweet, a status update or a note on an NBA sneaker to change the cultural problems events like this expose. Take an active role in making your school safer and helping anyone in your life to be more tolerant and empathetic.
·         Cherish ever moment with your children and students…let them know how much you love them every single day.

I don’t have any answers and I genuinely feel my heart broken this morning. Yes, I have seen these events happen in other schools before, but this one got to me in a real way. I am not sure if I will look at my own kids or students in the same way as I return to work this week. However, I am sure that I will make my classroom and my home a loving environment in which everyone feels safe and welcome. 
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