Support Over Thoughts and Prayers

These past few weeks have been hard for any student, teacher, parent, administrator, or anyone you could think that works for or is in a school. As I sit here, trying my hardest to think about something positive to blog about, my heart has been set on this topic for a few days now. My heart is full of sadness and grief for those who have lost 17 friends, classmates, students and teachers on February 14th, 2018. In case you are not aware of what is going on, this past Valentines Day yet another school shooting has happened, this time at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Here are the details of the shooting. Although there are thousands of articles and videos you can access on the shooting and the stories of the victims, no article could ever express the sadness, the anxiety, and the fear these students, teachers, parents and administrators felt that day. And as a student teacher, I hope to never feel anxiety or fear going to work, but now? Now thats all I think about when I look at my students.

School Shootings: A Student Teachers Perspective

I was only 4 years old when Columbine happened. I have no recollection of it. I was 12 years old when Virginia Tech happened. Still, I did not fully understand what was going on. I was a senior in high school when 26 children and teachers were shot and killed on December 14th, 2012 in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. I’ll never forget that day. I remember my social studies teacher turning on the news, making sure we were fully aware of what was going on. Despite how horrifying it was to see what was going on, I now understand why he did it. On February 15th of this year, I took a long, long look at my students. All I could think about was, what if? I pictured where I would put them, hide them. Would it be enough to keep them safe?

As a brand new teacher, literally, only student teaching, I wonder how I would handle a school shooting. Is that something I should be thinking about? No, but now it is one of my top priorities. And as a new teacher, who hasn’t even starting running her own classroom, having thoughts like that terrify me. I haven’t even started my new job without thinking of the worst. When before, all I thought about was how will I show my students love today? Not how will I protect them from a bullet today? It’s the little things that people, who do not teach, don’t think about. Lately, especially on social media, I have had the pleasure of seeing peoples comments, shares and even tweets saying what teachers are capable of and are not capable of. Well today, I’m here to tell you what we, as teachers, do to support our students in a time like this, and what we ARE capable of, and should not be forced upon.

When tragedy strikes, educators consider their students first and foremost. Teachers want to know, “What do I tell my kids?” and, “How do I help students wrap their heads around such unthinkable violence?”

Before the Parkland shooting, the first time I decided to research on how to talk to my students about mass shootings and gun violence was on October 1st, 2017 when a mass shooting happened in Las Vegas. This time frame was extremely important for me, as I was in my first student teaching placement. I was truly scared to talk to my students about it. What if they don’t respond to anything I say? What if they just blow it off?  Questions like these were running through my mind, and to be honest, they still do. But now.. now I think about what I need to do for my students. One of my go to resources for my blog, Teaching Tolerance, had quite a few articles about teachers experiences and advice who have gone through or know how to support students in a time of need when such violence occurs. It is a hard topic to talk about, especially because it is so realistic. However, we can do more than just talk about it. As a teacher in general, we have many roles besides “being a teacher”. There are some days where I am there to be a support system, to keep them in line, and to make sure they are making the best decisions for their future. And no, it’s not easy. But when such tragedy strikes, these are but a few factors teachers could do in the classroom to help our students. These practices include:

LISTEN: Teachers or staff should facilitate opportunities for students to share their experiences and understanding of what happened, and also express their feelings. Younger children may be encouraged to draw, perhaps with an indirect prompt to avoid introducing unpleasant thoughts that a child may not have.

PROTECT: Adults should work to reestablish students’ feelings of physical and emotional safety. Returning to regular school and classroom routines can contribute to this. School staff can advise students and families to avoid news coverage, violent films and other stimuli that may trigger children.

CONNECT: As needed, teachers and staff can encourage students to reestablish normal social connections, both in and out of school. Self-isolating is one of the common reactions to trauma. If this behavior lasts beyond an expected period, it may suggest the need for intervention.

MODEL: At home and at school, students look for behavioral cues from adults they respect and trust. Adults in the school community should model calm and optimistic behavior. This sets an example and sends the signal that, as anxious or sad as students may feel, it is necessary and possible to carry on.

TEACH: Psychologists, social workers or counselors can present information to students and parents about common reactions to stress, which may include changes in appetite and sleep patterns, as well as temporary difficulties with concentration and memory. These professionals can also reinforce the idea that seeking help is admirable, not something to shy away from.

The Importance of it All

As you may already know, one of the main arguments we are having in this country is whether or not to have teachers carry a gun. I want to make this clear: there is absolutely no way you can make me carry a gun. What teachers need are not GUNS, but more resources. And I’m not just talking about pencils, paper, or textbooks. I’m talking about resources for my students. Resources such as more guidance counselors, options of help for parents and children who are battling with mental health, and assessments that don’t base my students intelligence from a multiple choice exam. It’s not just about the guns. It’s about the students who don’t get the help they need. It’s about the students who turn to the guns and have an easy access to them. So yes, it is about the person firing the gun, but having gun control would prevent anyone from easily buying a gun, more specifically, a semi-automatic rifle. I’d like you to take into consideration of this blog, and hopefully it shows you a different prospective of the gun violence problem we have in this country. How many more children lives need to be lost in order to make a change?


Resources: Practices Teaching Tolerance 

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