school shootings

I’m Tired Of Writing About School Shootings

I started writing about school shootings shortly after I started publishing this blog in 2011, and sadly, they haven’t stopped. In February 2012, I wrote for Yahoo news on the Washington state school shooting. On December 19, 2012, I shared my tears for the families of Newtown, and then three days later  I wrote a eulogy for the children of Newtown.

I wrote about the Arapahoe School shooting in December 2013. I wrote about gun reform in 2013, and again in 2016 when I wrote about joining Moms Demand Action and protesting to end gun violence.

I’ve been in lock downs before – many times, in many schools. The one lock down that was real was one of the most terrifying days of my life. Afterwards, I wrote about it so you could feel what I felt – you can read part 1 here: This is what a school lock down feels like part one.  I wrote it in June, 2015. I wrote This is what a school lock down feels like part two the same month. I was interviewed on school violence on a podcast in September 2015.

After the Oregon school shooting in October 2015, I wrote about arming teachers.

I wrote about Orlando in June, 2016, and then again a few days later when I couldn’t shake the sadness.

I wrote about Charlottesville in August, 2017.

And I’m writing about Parkland, Florida today in 2018 – the 19th school shooting of 2018.

Sadly, I could write about shootings and fill my blog and social media with my anger every single week. And equally sad are the school shootings I didn’t write about. Sometimes it’s just too hard – too real.

I feel helpless, paralyzed by fear and sadness, so I write. I share my grief over the children who have died and been injured, my empathy with the teachers facing the unthinkable decisions about protecting their students, and the absolutely unimaginable, unthinkable, life-altering pain of the parents who sent their kids to the safest place they knew, only to have them not return.

I’m tired of writing and crying about school shootings.

I’m tired of using the only little platform I have to shout out about how wrong it is to be forced to devote teaching time to prepare for school shootings.

I’m tired of worrying about the outside door to my building being left open, and wonder if someone has snuck in.

I’m tired of putting on my poker face to my students when I get an alert that another school shooting has happened.

I’m tired of looking out my beautiful classroom windows and wondering if I’d be the first on campus to see a shooter come to campus.

Yes, those are the things I think about as a classroom teacher – not just on days like yesterday, when an enraged student returns to their school carrying an AR-15 and takes their fury out on their classmates and teachers.

I think about this every single day. I do. I think about if I didn’t lock the door to my classroom when I quickly run down the hall. I think about the students who gather in my room at lunch to relax and read and laugh and find a safe space to just be. I think about this when I’m alone in my classroom after dark, working on lessons or cleaning desks or making copies in the staff room on the other side of campus.

And I live in a ‘safe’ area – just like Parkland, Florida thought they were safe. I live in an area where people go to huge lengths to send their children to our school district for the quality of education and the safety.

And no – I’m not paranoid. I’m alert. I’m ready to act when the lock down alert comes, or when something doesn’t feel safe. I’m no different than any other teacher that you’ve heard about on the news – except that no one has been shot at my school. And just like them, I will practice and prepare and hope that the day never comes when I have to figure out where to hide my students in my classroom – I don’t have a closet that we will fit in, but I do know what to do.

school shootings

Today, I’ll stand outside my classroom door like I always do. I’ll smile and greet kids by name. I’ll give high fives, fist bumps, and hugs to those who need them. I’ll shut the heavy metal door, leave it unlocked, and create as much love and safety and learning as I can in 50 minutes before the bell rings, the students leave, and I do it all over again.

At 3:30 I’ll pick up the stray pencils, gently fold sweatshirts left behind on the floor and re-shelve the beloved ‘relax and read’ books. I’ll pick up my beanbags, push in chairs and turn off the twinkle lights sparkling around the front classroom wall. And I’ll lock the door with me on the inside, just because. My classroom is a safe space – and it’s up to me to keep it that way.

school shootings choose kind

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Use Wisdom Not Weapons To End Gun Violence

“Use wisdom, not weapons”, he pleaded to the crowd gathered in front of the California state Capitol building to end gun violence this morning. Not surprisingly, he elicited big cheers from his words – the crowd was comprised of moms, kids, and a few dads from Moms Demand Action and Everytown For Gun Safety, and we were there to gather support for California AB 1511, legislation that will close a loophole that allows guns to be loaned to people who haven’t passed a background check.

Common sense, don’t you think?

In my opinion, if Congress isn’t going to take action and vote for common sense gun laws, we need to take it local- go back to our towns, go back to our states, and focus our energy on getting states to pass the legislation to protect our children that the nation can’t seem to agree on.

I’m glad I live in California.

Wisdom not weapons - Moms Demand Action
Wisdom not weapons – Moms Demand Action
I spent the morning listening to legislators and volunteers and parents who believe in common sense gun control; people who are “survivors” of gun violence, who have lost family and friends to gun violence, or who like me and other moms, don’t want to watch one more moment of silence or prayer vigil after another innocent soul is shot down. We want to use wisdom, not weapons, to solve our problems. We want to see common sense used as part of the equation when talking about how to stop the killing in our country. We want to support the majority of Americans who believe in increased gun control and let Congress know we’re onto them, we see who is influencing them, and we will vote them out of office.

Small but mighty, we are. We are Moms Demanding Action-and just try to stop us.

Moms Demand Action in California
Moms Demand Action in California-I’m holding the sign on the left side.
To join us in our effort to end gun violence and enact common sense gun laws, follow Moms Demand Action and Everytown for Gun Safety on Facebook and Twitter. Join us in your community, or start a group of your own. Use wisdom to end the epidemic  of gun violence in our country. Use your voice to stand up for your children- and mine. Don’t wait until it happens in YOUR town to someone YOU love – remember, together we can do great things.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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on the cusp of adulthood

Just Like The Orlando Victims – On The Cusp Of Adulthood

“Mom, does it cost money to get checks?”

I received this millennial-surprise text from my daughter today – honestly, I didn’t even know millennials used checks. I thought that was sort of taboo for the digital generation, but apparently not.

She turned twenty this month, and is spending her first summer in an apartment – not at a camp or on vacation or in her bedroom at home. No, she’s all alone. Not even her boyfriend is around. She’s working two jobs, buying groceries and lugging her laundry downstairs. She’s paying her bills (by check, apparently), having dinner with friends and watching chick-flicks in the movie theater. All these normal, ordinary activities, that today make me pause and worry, just for a moment.

Despite her fierce independence, she’s still learning all these things as she’s balancing on the cusp of adulthood.

In these last days after the Orlando shooting, I’ve been waking up sad every morning. I can’t escape the news, the stories, or the sadness I feel when I think about all the posts I’ve written about shootings and gun violence. I just can’t shake it; today I could hardly leave the house. I just wanted to be quiet, be with my son taking the dog for a walk and planting peppers in our vegetable garden.

As I did all these peaceful, normal activities today, I started thinking about my girl, sitting in the reception area of her workplace. She has a job “in her field” during the day – not making much money, but earning invaluable experience. She’s the first person people see when they enter; she’s responsible for helping things run smoothly, for writing, designing, and event planning.  She works in a restaurant, too- seating customers, making them comfortable, being the first smiling face they see for their dining experience. She’s perfect for both jobs. She’s doing all the normal, adult-like things – just like all the young people in Orlando were – never imagining that it would be their last time.

on the cusp of adulthood
She’s on the cusp of adulthood

She’s on the cusp of adulthood, figuring out what kind of job she wants to look for when she graduates, figuring out who she is.

My son, just sixteen and finding his first job this summer, is testing out adulthood. He’s been hired at the karate school he’s been going to since he was four years old. He’s so excited to be employed, so eager to teach and learn and surround himself with mentors. He’s further from the cusp, but closing in.

Last night, just before bedtime, we heard the list of victims of the Orlando shooter – most on the cusp of adulthood themselves – all spending an evening together, in a place they felt safe and relaxed. All full of life and possibilities and hope for their future. All killed by someone who felt powerless and hateful.

I understand the feeling of being powerless. Each time I learn of gun violence I shiver and feel it washing over me. I write and talk and listen and try to use my voice to make change, but still, change eludes me. I fight the feeling of hate, searching the dark parts of my soul for a way to understand. But still, it often eludes me.

Last night my friend Jen texted me to see how I was doing. We shared our difficulty with getting out to face the day in the midst of such suffering, and at the end of our conversation she typed something that has etched in my mind- something that helps me make today just a bit easier. She said, “Me too…and thank God there are so many more loving than hating people in the world. Blessings ”

I know so many of us feel this, too. As I type tonight, I’m catching the filibuster happening for the last ten hours in Congress. I’m halfway listening to the pundits process every political proclamation, and I’m feeling sad, wondering how many more on the cusp of adulthood will have to suffer before we can come together and make policy that will help mothers like me, and Jen, breathe easier through the night.

So many more loving people in the world. Yes. I’ll breathe that in, hold it close to my heart.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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I’m Just Feeling Sad Today

I couldn’t get out of bed this morning.

It wasn’t because it’s my first official day of vacation, or because I stayed up too late last night – my days of all nighters are long gone, to be sure. The air was cool, the mockingbirds were announcing the dawn, and I knew my children were safely asleep.

After laying there for awhile sipping my coffee in bed, I realized that I’m just feeling sad today.

Before I went to bed last night I couldn’t pull myself away from Twitter and Facebook. Post after post captured my attention, even though I struggled to read the stories about Orlando.

It was a particularly unhealthy thing to do right before bed-I know that. But all day I’d been thinking about what happened, and trying to process what seemed impossible to fathom. I’d been reading blog posts about how to talk to your children about mass shootings, and hearing the angst from the LGBTQ community and their allies.

But what really sent shivers down my spine was the story from Eddie Justice’s mom. Did you see it?

Yesterday, while Eddie’s mother waited to learn if her son was one of the victims in the shooting, she released the images of the last conversation she had with him – via text.

As Eddie hid in a bathroom of the nightclub, knowing the shooter was coming closer and closer, and finally in the bathroom with him, he texted his mom.

“Mommy I love you”.
And later, “I’m gonna die”.

These words haunted me. The vision of this 30 year-old man, cowering in a restroom hoping against hope that he would make it out alive washed over me with a wave of sadness. Thinking of his mother, awakening from sleep to receive this text, I wept.

And when I woke up this morning, I found out that he was right. He did die, along with 48 other young men and women. And I’m just feeling sad today because of it all.

My friend Alexandra Rosas posted on Facebook today that “How can any of us not feel the good fortune of returning from a weekend to a Monday morning’s normal life…The return to normalcy, what so many in Orlando do not have today, and my heart breaks for the weight of the loss they wake up to.” Her words shook me; here I am, in my normal life, knowing my children are safe – and there is Eddie’s mom, knowing he is not.

I’m just feeling sad today. I’m tired of writing my reactions to mass shootings in schools and movie theaters and churches and nightclubs. I’m exasperated by politicians who won’t look at common sense ways to reduce gun violence in our country, and instead take to the airwaves to say how sorry they are children have died. I’m weary from imagining all the ‘what if’ scenarios involving my children and loved ones. I’m drained from having to drag myself to my computer one more time to speak out for ending gun violence because I don’t know what else to do. And I’m sick of prayers, especially from those who prevent policy that could prevent sons from dying in a restroom, texting their mothers.

I'm just feeling sad today

Eventually I pulled myself out of bed today. I did all sorts of normal things: fixed my son a smoothie, watered the garden, and texted my daughter. I cleaned out the laundry room, thinking of things she would need to set up her new apartment. Later, as my son and I walked the dog, I asked him if he’d heard the news about Orlando. He’s sixteen now, and while part of me was wishing he was younger and we could avoid this conversation, I knew it was important we talked. Because even though I’m feeling sad today, I know it’s nothing compared to the sadness of 49 other mothers who would give anything to walk alongside their son, having the hard conversations, and hearing their voice just one more time.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Arming Teachers Isn’t The Answer

I’ve been deeply, deeply rattled by the most recent mass shooting in Oregon.  Not just because I’m a mom, and I mourn the inconceivable loss of the children. Not just because I’m a writer, and mourn the loss of the creative writing teacher. And not just because I’m a human, and mourn the violence and tragedy of anyone killed at the hands of another.

I’m utterly devastated because I’m a classroom teacher, and I’m tired of worrying if this will happen to me. I’m a junior high school teacher, concentrating on serving students with the best education I can. I’m focused on watching developing minds bloom, and creating lessons to capture their attention and engage their minds. I’m intent on offering the very best of me every single minute of my work day. My intention is to help make the world a better place by teaching kids to be confident, kind, and compassionate humans.

I’m not focused on protecting them from a mass shooter – but now, I feel like I need to start paying attention.

I’ve made it no secret how I feel about guns and violence. I’ve written about every mass shooting in schools since I started this blog. I’ve shared my fears and my anger over and over, both here and on social media.

gun violence

I’ve likely lost some friends because of it, too. My voice becomes too loud for some when they have a fundamental disagreement with what its saying.

I’m sorry it has to end that way, but honestly, I’m OK with it.

Last spring, I wrote about what a school lockdown really feels like. My first-person narrative has been reprinted in the Huffington Post, on Bonbon Break, and many other websites. It has been shared hundreds of times, and on September 1, even turned into a podcast interview for Ten too Twenty Parenting.

And then last week, fifteen minutes before I was instructed to huddle once again on the floor of my classroom, I saw the news alert about the Umpqua Community College. My shoulders slumped, my jaw dropped, and I felt the tears coming. Not again. NOT AGAIN!

The bell rang and my students tumbled into the classroom. We did the safety drill. We talked about why we were doing it. We discussed the reality of the world, and how scary it was that people with guns were coming to schools to hurt students and teachers.

No teacher wants to have those conversations with their students. No parent wants to know their child is in lockdown.

schools and guns

Out of the wake of any tragedy, the media frenzy commences. The people begin talking, politicians begin sharing, and tempers flare. One side says this, the other that. Friends realize how different they might be. Families realize they don’t agree.

Once again, before the crime scene tape has been renewed, the media headlines begin, shouting out solutions. Over and over again, my temper rises as the default solution escapes from the lips of those who don’t set foot in classrooms: Arm the teachers. Teach them to kill.

As my anger escalates, the words escape me – it is that unimaginable to ask me, a mother, wife and 25-year teaching veteran, to arm myself before I walk into the classroom to serve my students.

There has got to be a more sensible solution.

I’m sharing this with you to start a dialogue. Gun violence is a multi-faceted issue, of that I am sure. I know we all want the same outcome: we want the killing to stop. But arming teachers isn’t the answer. It shouldn’t even be on the table.

I’d love for you to read my weekly post for The Educator’s Room – I’m talking about Gun Violence: An Educator’s New Normal? If you don’t understand my stand against arming teachers, listen to their conversations. Talk to your child’s school administration. Think about your favorite teacher from the past – is it really their job to be the first responder to an armed shooter? Shouldn’t we, couldn’t we, come up with a better answer?

One thing I know for sure – arming teachers isn’t the right one.

I welcome your comments that enable a discussion about solutions – if you have hate and vitriol to spew, do it somewhere else.

Remember, I’m a teacher.

p.s. – In the time since I wrote this and it was published, there have been TWO more school shootings – one in Arizona, and one in Texas. This teacher mom demands ACTION!
photo credit: Blackstar Arms via photopin (license)
photo credit: Caution: School Crossing via photopin (license)

guns in schools

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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