As I recall my school days in years gone by, it clearly is a stark difference to what students are up against today. In my day, we had, of course, fire drills, air raid drills, nothing compares to active shooting drills. When I became a teacher, we had fire drills, earthquake drills but certainly not active shooter drills. Clearly we have turned a corner as a society in general. It is beyond a moment to pause. It gives my generation a moment to reflect on our freedom of play- we were out and about until the sunset on our bicycles roaming the neighborhood playing pick -up games of baseball, kickball, hanging out on the playground of our elementary schools. The change to today’s world is stark. Even our parents would say so. My mother used to talk of her leaving baby carriages outside of stores while she and her friends would shop or grab a cup of coffee. No one thought of it as neglect, it was just what they did. It was the way of the world. The world was a trustworthy one. We were truly ‘free range’ kids.
Today, our world has changed exponentially. As we all know, students are now drilled in school lockdowns, as well as fire drills. The families interviewed this week regarding the horrific shooting at the STEM School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado talk about their schools being on ‘lockdown’, ‘lockout’ already several times this year. This is the new normal. One student, who was 12 years old interviewed talked about what he would do if the shooter came to his classroom and opened the closet he and his classmates were locked in: he had grabbed a baseball bat and would go down fighting. I find this hard to fathom of a 12 year old. The tag line: run, hide, fight is what these students are told to do in order to defend themselves. I find this a foreign concept.
The seniors at the STEM school should be celebrating their accomplishments right now, rather than mourning their lost class -mate and what innocence they have left before embarking on the next step after graduation is now gone.
Now what? Gun Control? Yes, for sure. But for right now, mourning; mourning for those who lost a piece of their youth, and not just those high school students. All students who heard gunshots, who wondered if their school would be next, how will they end their school year and start the next.
But what first:
Mental Health: Our teachers need support, not just now, but throughout the school year. Class sizes are too big, school counselors are overworked and their caseloads are probably overloaded. Maybe this is where we start… mental health at school and home, downsizing class sizes so, while teachers, who do an amazing job now, can be more effective in the affective part of the teaching process. Hire more counselors, reach out to students; whether they appear to be on solid ground or not. There is something missing. The students voiced their concern the other evening at a memorial service. Listen to what they have to say. They are the front lines.
Another piece to ponder – maybe, just maybe, an 18 year old is not yet an adult. When the news reported that an adult entered the STEM school, I visualized, well, an adult, not a student. Just who is an adult? My official adulthood did not start until I was 21, that has changed, certainly. Maybe, we should step backwards and see about rebooting adulthood. . We know the brain chemistry, those brain cells have yet to completely connect.
Young students should not have to ponder ‘taking out’ a shooter. High School Seniors should not have to mourn their senior year, reporters should not have to ask these students and their parents how they are coping. Teachers need to focus on the task at hand – teaching students how to learn and to love the learning process in and out of the classroom. Let’s put teachers, students and mental health and perhaps recapturing youth as the top priority right now.