I’ve been debating on posting about this topic for a while, but after ANOTHER school shooting a few days ago in Maryland, I had to release these thoughts. Let me begin by stating these views are mine alone and do NOT reflect the views or opinions of my employer.
It’s taboo to discuss your views and opinions on anything controversial, especially education. Sometimes, we have to put common sense thoughts and suggestions out in the world in order for productivity and positive change. We must be the change we want to see. Sometimes silence is a good thing, but not when it’s at the stake of our lives and the lives of our children. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
On #NationalWalkoutDay, I saw the photo of a chart (Walk Up NOT Out) circulating on social media. I am unsure on whether or not the teacher who created it supported the walkout. From glancing at the photo, she did not.
The message is great. Those gestures should definitely be projected and displayed. My question is why is this not being modeled and supported by educators everyday? Why does it take tragedies for us to speak about empathy and kindness towards others? Bullying can affect everyone—those who are bullied, those who bully, and those who witness bullying. Bullying is linked to many negative outcomes including impacts on mental health, substance use, and suicide. It is important to talk to kids to determine whether bullying—or something else—is a concern.
Teaching and modeling empathy, compassion, and morality is SO very important for children to be exposed to at a young age. Not only by their teachers, but ALL the adults in their lives. We expect so much from our children, yet in many cases, we aren’t displaying the reactions and actions we want them to exhibit.
Building relationships with my students and their families has always been the WHY for me. Academics are important, there is no doubt about that, but so are manners, how you treat people, empathy, compassion, and consideration for others. Social skills was always the top priority in my classroom. “When schools, families, and community groups work together to support learning, children tend to do better in school, stay in school longer, and like school more.” That’s the conclusion of A New Wave of Evidence, a report from Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (2002). It takes a village to raise a child. Think about it. None of us are a success without the continuous support of family, friends, mentors, community leaders, etc. A child’s first teacher is his or her parent. Teachers and parent(s) should be a team; constantly communicating, lifting one another up, and reflectively setting goals for the child while helping the child achieve those goals. The child should also be a part of his or her learning and witnessing the positive relationship between teacher and parent. I have been incredibly blessed to work with children and families who have trusted me and worked with me in order to not only prepare their child academically, but morally. I won’t pretend that I had 100% family involvement. I also won’t pretend that I do everything right everyday, but I certainly strive to because you never know who is watching especially in a school full of young thinkers.
Now, let me get to what’s been bothering me: the arming of teachers. WHY? There supposedly aren’t enough funds to hire more educators, fund classrooms (pencils, paper, ink, etc.), or technology, BUT there is miraculously money for arming teachers with guns? No. This will add more stress to educators. There has already been news of teachers who have brought guns to school and have accidentally or purposefully shot student
or themselves. Where is the logic that adding guns in a gun free zone will provoke positive change? How will a stressed out, overworked, frustrated educator be able to not only calm 18+ children during a lockdown or school shooting AND shoot an armed gunman with an assault weapon? That is a visual that I just don’t want to imagine. Furthermore, I don’t want a child witnessing a gun in my hand.
Education is political and it shouldn’t be. Decisions should be made based on the progression, well-being, and safety of ALL children. Where they live, how they act, race/ethnicity, their family’s socioeconomic status should not play a factor in how they are viewed or treated. Educators should not be ridiculed by where they work, who they work with, or the scores of a standardized test. It should be about their devotion to their students, their work ethic, the relationships they nurture, and the overall progression of the students they teach.
I am no one special. I am just an educator stating her opinion about a topic that should have been addressed logically many, many years ago. I don’t have all the answers and I’m not the best anything in the world. My goal is to be a better version of myself daily and that is what I tried to relay to my students every single day. I nurtured them, encouraged and motivated them, challenged and honored them all while trying to make learning in my classroom a fun and safe place they wanted to return to everyday.
My hope is that we all “put a little love in our hearts” and teach the next generation to do the same.
Every child deserves a champion: an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists they become the best they can possibly be. -Rita Pierson