Tag: school

Who Will Protect the Children?

February 14, 2018 has turned into another September 11, 2001 for me. I will never forget where I was and what I was doing when I first heard the news of each tragic event. With September 11, I was walking through the teacher’s lounge when I heard in passing about a plane hitting a building in New York and caught a glimpse of some video. I didn’t think much of it at the time and went back to my classroom prepared to teach. No teaching happened that day and life how we knew it changed forever.

On February 14 of this year, as I sat in a data chat meeting with my assistant principal, my team, and a few other people, my friend looked at her phone and suddenly gasped. She quickly filled us in on what what happening. Again, I was shaken by the news, but thought (no, I hoped) that it would turn out to be another false alarm, just hearsay, just some rumors being passed around, but it wasn’t. I had another class period to teach so I headed back to my classroom. Again, no teaching happened for the rest of that day as we got word, little by little, about what was unfolding.

But this time it was so different.

This time the news tore me apart in a completely different way. All I could do was pray, pray that my God would comfort those who were hurting, save those who were fighting for their lives, and give me the strength I needed to be strong for those around me, the peace I needed not to succumb to fear.

You see, as a teacher at a school only 15 miles from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, this hit too close to home. Before I could even try to wrap my head around how I was feeling about everything, I was first faced with the task of comforting and consoling my 8th grade students who were frightened and worried that since the gunman was still at large at that time, there was a possibility that he could be heading our way.

“She’s so calm,” was what one of my students commented about my outward demeanor. Inside, I was desperately trying to process everything I was hearing and seeing while not adding to the tension and apprehension that was slowly seeping into my classroom. I had to hold it together for my students. Numerous questions were sent my way. After all, I was the adult in the room, so of course, my students believed that I had all of the answers.  We had been placed on a soft lock down as a precaution. This, in turn, caused my students to start asking if their parents could come and pick them up, yet most of them were afraid of leaving the safety of my classroom to even walk outside. At that moment, so much responsibility was put into my hands all while I worried about the safety of my own children. My seven-year-old son was on the same lock down in his aftercare program on my school campus. My older son, was, hopefully, on his way home from his high school on the other side of town.

But this time it was so different.

While my students and I should have been reviewing the parts of an essay for an upcoming statewide assessment, I was instead reviewing the procedures if we were to go on a Code Red lock down. Where in the room would we be the safest? What did we do if the fire alarm went off in the midst of it or someone knocked on the door? Remember to stay off your cell phones; stay away from the windows. Don’t panic. Help would be coming. Wait for the all clear signal to come.

But this time it was so different.

I’d all seen on the news the stories of the mass shootings at other schools, threatening notes sent over social media, some who’d brought guns to school but were caught before they could carry out their plans, so I knew the threat was very real. We teachers had started the school year off with a special training for what to do if there were ever an active shooter on campus. We even had to endure listening to an actual phone call made by a teacher during the Sandy Hook shooting. We practiced for what would happen if we were under a Code Red and the fire alarm was pulled. We even practiced evacuating the entire school to another location should the need ever arrive.

But somewhere in your mind it’s always just a drill. It will never happen here. It can’t happen here.

But this time it was so different.

I have old coworkers who currently work at Stoneman Douglas and the middle school next to it. I have a coworker whose son and daughter attend school there and were there when it happened. I have other coworkers who live in the same neighborhood, who pass by the school going to and from work and have neighbors who were direclty affected by the events. My dad delivers mail to one of the families who lost their child. A woman who works at my children’s dentist office told me about her daughter fearfully hiding in a portable with 27 other students for hours. I have a student who lost friends in the shooting and still came to school the next day and shared her grief with us. I’ve had to read an email to my students explaining to them how we (their teachers) would be there for them if they needed to talk even as my voice shook, and I struggled not to cry. I’ve had to review with my own son’s their schools’ plans for emergency situations just to be sure they know exactly what to do.

But this time it was so different.

It wasn’t THEM this time. It was US. Even though we have always felt a certain unity with the teachers and parents of those other schools in other states, this week it really hit home.

 It can happen anywhere, at any time, to any of us.

My mind keeps going back to the same questions. Why? Why does this keep happening? What can we do to prevent another one from happening? Why aren’t we doing more? How many lives must we lose before something is done? Will I be ready if it happens at my school?

What would I do if it were my child?

Who will protect the children?

Are we really going to make them do it on their own?

I pray that this opens the door for meaningful conversations to happen, for those who CAN change this to open their eyes, to question what needs to be done. As of right now, it’s the kids who are standing up and speaking their minds. It’s the kids who are screaming out that enough is enough. It’s the kids who are out marching and protesting and planning walkouts. It’s the kids who are calling the adults on their foolishness and their BS. It’s the kids who are saying that they will make a change.

We should be embarrassed. We’re the ones here to protect them, not the other way around.

Are their lives not more important than our winning an argument? How long before WE, the adults, decide that enough is enough?

How many parents have to bury their children before our hearts and minds are open to change?

 

 

America, something has to change! Now is not the time for our country to be divided! As you can see, division has only served to hurt us more! Division has only served to hurt the innocent who for too long have had no voice! As you can see, there clearly is a problem! Now is not the time to pick a winner or a loser! Now is the time to do what is right! Let’s stand up against the violence and stand up for our children! Let’s stand up and use some freaking common sense! What we’ve been doing is NOT working!

It’s time for us to stand up in love and do what we know we need to do, what we have to do to ensure the safety of our children. The last thing any child should ever feel at school is fear.

Personally, I choose to stand on God’s word during this time, and anything that I do will be done from a place of faith and love because my trust is in Him. Believe me, I am angry, and I am desperate for change, too. I know that change can happen.

It’s whether or not we will put aside our differences and make it happen.

Or will this be, like all of the other times, another forgotten cause until the next shooting happens?

Will we get it together before we allow this to happen again?

I don’t know the answers, but I am willing to help.

Not one more child, please.

Not one more child.

Who will protect our children?

 

 

The Heart of a Teacher (The Untold Story)

When I envisioned becoming a teacher, I pictured standing in front of a classroom presenting these beautiful, heartfelt lessons to the enthusiastic students seated in front of me who were just as excited about education and who were ready and eager to learn. While I didn’t go into teaching to feel a sense of power, I certainly thought I would at least earn respect from my students, their parents, and the community. We would all work together to ensure the success of every child in my classroom. Hey, maybe we would even lock arms and sing, “We Are the World,” overwhelmed by just how much we had done that would impact the world within that year those students were a part of my class. (Okay, so that might be taking it a bit far.)

                                                   

I was a bit naive about how things would really go down, but is it too much to ask for me to have something close to that? Suprisingly, yes it is. The reality is that my classroom is far from magical, and every day is a battle to get my students to be enthusiastic about the learning process.

But what surprises me even more about everything (and what this post is really about) is how ignorant everyone else is about exactly what it is that teachers are required to do. People truly believe that our days begin and end with the ringing of the school bell, that the only time we spend working is during those “work hours.”  How hard can it be, right?  It infuriates me when someone comments on the number of days off that we have, citing the breaks and holidays, as if those days off make our job any easier or when someone who has never been in the classroom wants to tell me what they would do if they had to deal with a particular situation in my class as if I am too ignorant to have thought of the same solutions. (I would never allow a student to speak to me like that. Why don’t you just throw him/her out? You just have to have discipline and the kids will behave.) Boy, please!

                                                                 

The thing is, it’s not easy. People don’t really understand just how difficult this career is, just how many different hats teachers are asked to wear, how much pain and happiness our hearts go through in a day while dealing with other people’s children and the endless demands placed upon us. You see, I actually feel like what I spend the least amount of time doing each day is actually teaching the subject that I get paid to teach. Yeah, I said it.

Now, before you freak out, let me explain.

   

Unfortunately, all of my students don’t come to me from perfect homes with supportive parents who are able to help guide them through the many ups and downs of school. Many of my students come to school with so much on their own plates that school is the last thing on their mind. Just this year alone, the stories that I have heard about some of my students’ lives is enough to make many Lifetime Channel movies (and you know how dramatic those can be). The things some of them have dealt with and seen or are currently dealing with is too much for even adults to comprehend, so how do we expect a child (my students are thirteen and fourteen years old) to be able to process what they’re going through or for them to care about what their grade is in my class? My teammates and I have been in tears several times this year as we try to fathom the hurt and pain that some of our students are dealing with every day. We’ve all been to the point where we just want to take some of our students home with us so we can shield them from the frustration and suffering. Yet, I’m supposed to just teach them about essay writing and grammar and everything will be okay?

What about all of the normal teenage issues that kids have to deal with? Although each school level has its own set of problems, I can definitely speak on middle school students and all that they’re going through at this age. Fitting in and learning who they are are the biggest concerns for my students. Their self-worth is based upon their hairstyles, their clothes, the way they think they look, how they speak, the music they listen to, sports they play, what group they hang out with, how many followers they have on Instragram, and the list goes on. It’s very difficult to teach someone who is worried about how everyone around them perceives them or is uncomfortable in their own skin. So I spend a lot of my time dealing with bullying, low self-esteem, conforming to fit in with others, misplaced anger, overwhelming sadness, and a sense of worthlessness or just confusion. It’s impossible to ignore all of this and just try to teach kids who have all of these other issues on their mind. Yet, I’m supposed to just keep on trekking and make sure these students are proficient at picking out the best textual evidence to support their thesis statement and writing a great paper. Really?

Electronics, video games, TV, and social media. Even parents know that these are tough competition. In this age of technology, kids are attached to these items 24/7 and getting them to focus on other subjects can seem impossible. I have kids literally falling asleep throughout the day because they stayed up to 2:00am on the phone watching videos or texting friends. Teachers have to constantly be on top of new fads, working to make lessons as fun and engaging as possible, finding clever ways to infuse the technology the kids love and yes, even social media, into our lessons. In a culture of instant gratification, trying to get kids to slow down and focus on a task that they can’t perfect right away, telling them they will have to practice it over and over again in order to master it, is a monumental task. Yet, I should be able to get my students to write, revise, and edit their essays several times before they turn them in to me. Let’s be realistic, please.

In order not to make this a book, I’ve only pointed out just a few of the issues that we encounter as teachers. Only…a…few. I haven’t even gotten to the fact that in addition to teaching we are expected to still be curriculum specialists, guidance counselors, referees, grief counselors, moms, dads, police officers, advisers, entertainers, data analyzers, be able to supply students with the basic school necessities, keep them engaged, well-behaved, report any inappropriate, suspicious, or below-grade level behavior, serve on different committees, attend numerous workshops, and keep up with every educational trend all while someone sits in the back of our classroom and evaluates our every move or while people sit in their government offices and make decisions that will impact our workload and pay.

Personally, I feel like we’re superheroes in disguise, saving the day behind the scenes, but never getting the credit for all that we do.

So please don’t get upset with me if a child’s test scores is not my first priority. I’m sure that I speak for all teachers when I say that we’re more concerned with the people seated in front of us than the scores on a paper, with the growth and development and the overall well-being of our students than what level they scored on an unfair test. Yes, we do want to see them do well on the tests, to improve and show growth, to be successful in school, but that’s not the end all be all. That’s not our daily motivation. We are focused on the WHOLE child, not just the part evaluated by a test.

And our students see us as more than just teachers. They tell us about their problems, and brag to us about their accomplishments, they get hugs from us to cheer them up or give us hugs to try to cheer us up, they scream our names from down the hallway and run to us to say hello, some adopt us as Mom or Auntie or Uncle and try to invite themselves to dinner at our house, they beg us to come watch them at their games or to read the story they wrote. We are so much more to them and they are so much more to us.

I wish more people would listen to us and understand our hearts, hearts that break for our students as well as swell with pride. What we give our kids can’t be found in a textbook or on the next state assessment.

What we do is more than just teach.

We give our students our hearts.

EVERY SINGLE DAY.

That should count for so much more than any test score.

All of my teacher friends, what do you think? Please feel free to chime and comment below!