Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Walking Up, Out & Side-by-Side
I started writing this post one month ago on February 14th. It began as a Facebook status, but as I kept writing, I realized that it was a blog. Certainly, the length warranted it as more blog-worthy. But as a parent and a teacher, I had a story to tell and wanted more processing time. Blogging also gives me the opportunity to continue to push the conversation forward. With most problems, there is immediate attention, urgency, and help, but work over time is how complex problems are resolved.
I believe in the right to bear arms, yet I've never been able to reconcile that with the number of mass shootings, especially the school shootings from Columbine in 1999 to Stoneman Douglas High this year. At work I've been trained to respond to an active shooter. I've participated in a mock disaster with a lone shooter scenario with the local emergency response management system. I am confident with the levels of security at my work site, especially with the changes that I have witnessed since 1999. We are not, however, 100% bullet-proof and sadly never will be.
After Sandy Hook, I taught my then 8 year old daughter how to respond to an active shooter. After every single mass shooting scenario since, we rehearsed possible actions, since rehearsal is one step in potential survival. Now in middle school she is 14; she didn't listen quietly this time. She had questions. Her friends had questions. They had great questions and some unanswerable. They wanted to know how to triage a gun shot wound, what to do if their teacher was killed and other questions that as a parent and a teacher I have no answer for. They wanted to be prepared to act.
Our city beautiful has been the setting for one potential attack at UCF in 2013 and an actual attack with The Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016. Due to these and other events my daughter's view of the world has shifted as has my approach. When I go to the movies, I check out the crowd and look for my exits. When I am in large crowds, I am constantly scanning the crowd looking for signs. At UCF each semester in a new classroom, my first night procedure is to look for all the potential exits and make an evacuation plan for students. Those actions are not enough.
The adult reaction, especially for younger students, is to get back to normal as soon as possible. With high school students and my middle-school aged daughter and friends, it's a little different. They need safe spaces talk about their concerns and fears. They need to act. People, who don't, find not so healthy ways to address their pain, fear and anger. This is why I encouraged my daughter to walkout today and why I walked out side-by-side with students and colleagues today.
I am proud of my district, my principal and my daughter's middle school for supporting students' rights to walkout or not. I am proud of the way that the district informed parents. I am proud of the courage it took to provide students with a safe space to voice their shared pain, fear, and anger. I am proud of the collaborative effort that students and staff took to provide avenues for students to take action.
I have never witnessed such a profound courageous collective response to any event in my 24 years in this profession. What I have realized though is that as parents and teachers we are the first responders to our children and students. When we do the best job we can by teaching teens to read, write, speak, listen and act, we do not need to wield a gun to save a life. We do that each day by walking up, out and side-by-side with our kids and arming them with the understanding that they are not alone and are difference makers.