Wednesday, November 6, 2013

I am in the middle of my seventh of teaching, and there is a distinct change happening that I have gradually noticed over the last two years.

It finally solidified for me today and made my heart drop not once, but twice.

I am not sure that I have ever actually felt my heart drop before, but after today, I will never forget exactly what it felt like. 

The issue is school safety. 

It's fair game to say that it's become more and more dicey over the last few years. 

My friend Katie wrote a piece about feeling safe/not feeling safe a couple of weeks ago. 

It is a huge opportunity to be the people who spend more time with children during the day than parents do at night, and I say this with the full understanding that my very own darlings spend more time with their teachers during the school day than they do with me at night. 

That's why weekends are completely golden to me. 

During the week, we see the good, the bad, the mean, the brilliant, the confused, the struggling, the hilarious, and the miracles that our students willingly or unwillingly show us each day. 

99% of the time, a phone call home and some positive interactions at school can fix the problem and make it manageable. 

It's the 1% of the time that caught my attention today. 

Our schools have gone from the philosophy of we have systems in place to keep us all safe to the reality of addressing the fact that disasters are much more prevalent and are more difficult to predict, address, and manage now than they were just five short years ago. 

Thanks to the incredible leadership of a former high school coach, I have been following the Rachel's Challenge movement for the last four years. My former coach is now a principal at an awesome school in the Dallas area, and the movement he leads against bullying and school violence is inspirational and powerful, and I can absolutely see how it starts a chain reaction of kindness within high school students. A tiny bit of background: Rachel was the first student killed in Columbine. She left a legacy of kindness behind her, and it really has been a spark for lots of positive activity in high schools throughout the U.S.

Today I was introduced to a new-to-me organization called iloveuguys, and it was established by another family in Colorado who lost their daughter to a school shooting. Between learning about the organization and writing this post, I haven't had time to get to know more about their mission, but I plan to very soon.

For some reason, today's presentation really hit me hard - the video we watched as a faculty is one we will be showing to our students tomorrow and Friday. My mind has been racing trying to anticipate the questions my students might ask while making sure I have adequate and thorough answers for these questions they haven't even asked me yet...all while wishing there were parts of the video I could fast forward through and places I could pause to give them lots of reassurance.

On another level, my mind has also been racing trying to anticipate how Cee and Jay (and their friends and classmates) will react to this video, since it is a district effort to better align our crisis response teams. The video is definitely kid-appropriate, but I have been a pretty sheltering parent as far as the violence I allow the girls to experience and absorb (as have many of my mom friends). Realizing that they would watch this and possibly have negative reactions to it was the first measurable point where I felt my heart drop today.

The biggest ah-ha moment for me this afternoon was realizing that as a system, we've gone from being a place with established systems to keep us all safe to a system with an improved structure that's designed to keep us safe - where our focus has shifted to saving as many as we possibly can.

This realization was the second point where my heart took a measurable nose-dive today.

In a way, our society has become very desensitized.

I had a meeting with two parents this morning where the dad expressed that he understood that we (teachers) knew "some kids weren't worth saving," and the context was about behavior and academics. I couldn't wait for my turn to speak, and when it was my turn, I very respectfully told him (in my least Pollyanna voice) that I believe all kids are worth saving (because I do), and I wasn't referring only to behavior academics.

These little sweeties of mine have so much ahead of them and so much to offer the world. I am absolutely certain of it.

I know the parents of my students feel the exact same way about their own children, and I know they're trusting me with their children's safety each and every day just like I'm trusting the girls' teachers with their safety every single day. 

I need to see how Cee's story and Jay's story unfold in this great big world and I want to support them as much as they need me to or want me to through every step of their journey, whether from being right by their sides or though offering my support from farther away. I am absolutely certain of that, too. 

The challenge of imagining a world where either one of those isn't possible breaks my heart. 

My control-freak tendencies don't like the unimaginable or unexpected...

Tomorrow I will go back to school and I will love my job and the students I teach, and I will be super excited to pick Cee and Jay up after school and make sure they know they're loved and they're amazing because that is one thing I can definitely control in the middle of all the other unknowns.

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