The news came the same way I’ve heard about all the other horrors in my generation – by email. Sitting at my desk, watching my 8th grade students joyfully read folktales and discuss the humor, the trickery, and the cultures contained in the storybooks before them, I gasped in horror. You’d think, from listening to the news reports, that I wouldn’t be surprised by another school shooting. But you see, as a teacher and mom, I am. I’m still shocked and devastated, brought to tears, whenever I hear of a person with a gun in their hands firing indiscriminately at innocent people.
Last year, on the day of the Sandy Hook shooting, I shared my tears with my teenage daughter as we drove through the Sierras, hands clasped. Somehow I never imagined that parenting would be so hard, that I would have to explain the callous behaviors of someone her age against 26 innocent young children. We talked about how the Newtown shooting might motivate our lawmakers towards tightening legislation for gun control and universal background checks. But through it all, I couldn’t stop the tears. They flowed freely that day, and for weeks afterwards, every time I thought about the grieving parents and the eulogy they had to compose for their child.
In the hours following yesterday’s Arapahoe High School shooting, I couldn’t help but follow the news reports. I felt an overwhelming urge to understand, to process, to figure out not only how this could happen, but why. And what did I find? News reporters leading with the words “this time” and “only one injured”. What have we become? How can we as a society be so numbed to this horrific event that we celebrate that ‘only one’ has been injured? How can we remark with such seeming indifference that it has happened again? I feel my tears flowing. Again.
And it’s not just for the parents, the children, and the families that I weep. It’s for me. It’s for my colleagues, my students, my school, and my own precious children. Every day I walk into a classroom filled to the brim with promise. Sometimes, it’s the hardest job I could ever imagine. Sometimes I need to have hard conversations with children and parents, and sometimes I know kids need to fail and hit bottom before they find their way back to the top. Sometimes I have interactions with parents and kids who think things should be different, who think that they should always earn an A and I’m being unfair. Sometimes, it makes me want to quit.
And then I hear that a child, upset with a teacher, brazenly comes back to their school to take matters into their own hands. And I wonder if that could happen at my school, to my staff, to my students. To me. And the tears start to flow, again.
I shouldn’t have to be thinking about how I would protect myself or my students; I find myself running through scenarios in my mind, processing how I would deal with the announcement of a shooter on campus. I shouldn’t have to be thinking about why Congress has halted universal background checks, or why 12 states have loosened gun control laws. I shouldn’t have to think about why three Colorado lawmakers have left office this year from lack of support for gun control.
I shouldn’t have to think about leaving a job I love because I know any day it could happen anywhere – not just in Colorado, but in California, or Connecticut. Or that in 2013 alone, 21 American schools have had to directly think about the aftermath of a school shooting.
And I shouldn’t have to share my tears, again, as I hug my children just a little bit closer tonight.
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