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.

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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)

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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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Sharing My Tears, Again: A Reflection on the Arapahoe High School Shooting

hugging at Sugar Bowl20131214-102412.jpgThe  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.

kids at Sugar Bowlkids at Sugar Bowlkids at Sugar BowlI 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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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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