I don’t really know where to start on this one. I have been thinking and feeling about this ever since I heard about it. Almost everything I hear about this, as far as solutions, makes me think to myself, “No, that ain’t it.” I guess more accurately I see that their perspective is not my perspective. The question I now ask myself this question; “What is my perspective?”
First, I should tell you about my current situation. I am mathematics teachers at a charter high school under the umbrella of a public school system. The school system is part of the suburbs of a major American city. I teach in a 12 foot by 24 foot trailer in the shadows of four story building. There is no fence between my trailer and the school’s neighborhood. The location of the school and study body is definitely middle class.
Is it safe? Mostly. I have yet to see violence at this school in my three years here, although it occasionally happens. On the other hand, I once read a news report that said a 16-year-old student who was trying to sell some handguns was caught across the street from the school and arrested a few years ago. I am in a place where street guns exist and I teach in a vulnerable physical position. Yet I am not scared. Why? I do not really know. I guess I trust the students and families of the neighborhood.
I have been in worst places. I taught for four years at school in a rough neighborhood that had an armed robbery performed directly across the street from the school and used the school parking lot for the location of the getaway car….during school hours. I taught at a school where a student expressed a desire to copy the Columbine shooting on the anniversary of the Colorado shooting. (Administration got intel on this and put the student on home schooling for a while.) Another kid at this school was gone for three months because he got shot in the butt cheek. (This is the school I graduated from as a youth.) I taught in California, where my bandana in my pocket elicited questions from students of Crips or Bloods, even though one band was yellow and another was purple.
Despite all of this, I feel perfectly fine showing up to school everyday. In fact, I look forward to it. I love my students and I love, or at least like, most of the people I work with. When I try to answer the question for myself about my lack of fear, I come across two things that influence me. First, I have this twisted thing in my psyche that goes something like this; I am scared of the things that I should not be scared of and not scared of things I should be scared of. The other thing that explains part of this comfort I feel is that I feel strongly that I do everything I can do understand what is going on with the people around me. I keeps me feeling safe.
I guess it is part of my survival mode. I grew up as the littlest guy in class. (I am now about 6 feet tall and weigh about 220 pounds.) I had few friends and we lived on the edge of some pretty rough neighborhoods. I heard of guys getting beat up and jumped but I escaped those kind of confrontations. I guess it was my humor. Maybe charm. Maybe being scrawny and shy. Maybe I was just lucky. It certainly wasn’t my toughness.
Anyway, I do feel like we need to hash out a solution to this problem. We need to do something that makes us feel a little safer. But what? All the solutions I have heard (arming teachers, arming veterans, etc.) are obviously from people that don’t know schools or teachers very well. In the gun debate, I have a tendency to believe that less is better. Don’t worry, Mr. Cat Scratch Fever, I am not advocating taking all your guns. I’m just saying to remove the guns of those meant for a battle field. Or just turn them into harmless toys. You don’t need those just like you don’t need hand grenades and tanks and bazookas.
On a similar note, I love what some high school kids are doing. We have heard for years how we want teenagers to think for themselves. Now, when they do, many people are telling them to be quiet because they are “just kids.” I, on the other hand, I am so proud of them that it almost makes me cry like a proud parent. Kudos to the teachers and parents who taught them so well.
And the solution? In my eyes, we, as adults, need to start paying attention. We need to stop “mailing it in.” Students are pissed and tired of our lame leadership. Why don’t we just sit back and listen to what they have to say. You might be amazed. And not just these brilliant kids on TV. Let’s listen to the disgruntled 9th grader who is failing all his classes. And everyone in between. If we don’t listen and watch them all, who knows where our next shooter may come from. Just watch, listen and act if we have to….Because, at some point, we will be required to take the right action.