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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Something Cool From My Classroom: Interactive Student Notebooks

 

interactive notebooks

This year I’m celebrating 25 years of teaching! I started as a 7th grade English teacher back in the 90s, and have shifted around between 5th (briefly-very briefly after Lily was born), 7th, 8th and 9th grades –  but my favorite is 8th grade. I know, I’m a little crazy, but I love their goofiness and willingness to try almost anything.

I’ve started writing weekly articles for the website The Educator’s Room, and it’s been great fun sharing my thoughts, ideas and stories about teaching with their audience, mostly made up of teachers and those who spend their days focused on education. I love their philosophy of ‘Empowering Teachers as the Experts”; there’s a lot of really cool and thoughtful teaching happening out there!

interactive notebooks

This week’s post, “Are You Using Interactive Student Notebooks? You Should Be!” showcases something cool my students have been doing for the last several years. To my experienced teacher friends this might flashback to the 1980s, but if it’s good, it’s good!

interactive notebooks

Swing on over to The Educator’s Room and catch a glimpse of all the wonderful teaching – and talk about education going on in our country, straight from the people doing the work!

To view all my writing for The Educator’s Room, click here.

interactive notebooks

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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What Do Kids Think On The First Day of Middle School?

Summer is finally over. Parents are secretly smiling as they shoo their kids out the door, snap a few first day of school photos and sigh. Yes, some of you might shed a few tears over the passage of time and the impending high school graduation – even if it’s still five years away. And some of you try to walk your kids to their first class in middle school (a big no-no) and even more of you hover in the parking lot or your local coffee shop and quietly wonder what’s happening to your kid inside the walls of their 7th and 8th grade classrooms.

As I start my 25th year of middle school, I thought I’d give you a sneak peek. And one thing your kids say might just be true: the first day of school can be a real snoozer. Far too many teachers fill their first moments with kids drilling them with rules and consequences, with syllabi and seriousness.

Fortunately, I came to my senses and gave that up long ago. Middle school is about relationships. It’s about smiling, about showing you care, and letting kids know that school can actually be fun – even when it’s not lunch or passing period.

On the first day of school, I like to mix it up and actually do an activity that gets kids thinking, analyzing and moving straight away. One of my favorites is called “Post the post it on the poster”.

My motivation here is two fold: I want kids to know what I’m thinking about as I start the year, and I also am surreptitiously watching how they move, who they gravitate towards and of course, how they respond to my questions.

How would you answer these?

middle school teachers

One of my favorite (and most common) responses: little did I know I’d have to channel my inner entertainer when I began teaching middle school!

middle school teachers

Do you think this kid is serious, or just trying to make nice with the new teacher?

middle school teacher

No, this wasn’t the “what kind of a teacher do you want” question – this one was about what kids should be doing in the classroom. Ha ha!

middle school kid advice

I love when they tell me what to do – and boy, do they love to tell me…

middle school teacher advice

And yes, they definitely have their priorities straight about why they’re there:

middle school

Of course, I have to bring it back around to the beginning of the year, and have them think about themselves (middle school kids LOVE to think about themselves!):

middle school goal setting

No pressure, huh? Can you believe how many of them set goals around their grades? Is that their parents talking?

middle school goals

This one was my favorite. I wish I knew who wrote it, but then again, it doesn’t really make much difference. Be the best we can be. Be open to new things. If we can accomplish that goal, we’re going to have an amazing year.

I’ll let you know how it goes!

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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What Is The Best Way To Capture Moments?

“The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.”

– Jon Kabat-Zinn

The morning is glorious. I’m up early, alone. As the sun rises over the quiet lake. I’ve got my legs up on the pier, balancing my notebook and coffee next to me. The sun is warms my face and the breeze blows down my neck thanks to my newly cropped off hair, just cool enough to be glad I wore my sweatshirt. Wild bunnies and chipmunks scurry in the bushes next to me, undisturbed by the water skier gliding by. The waves lap gently against the shore; paddleboarders and kayakers are my only human companions, and they appear as intoxicated by their surroundings as I am.

It honestly couldn’t get much more perfect for an introverted-nature-loving-writer.

This is what summer should be like – distractions including only a jumping fish, the glitter of the rising sun on water, and the slight smoky scent of bacon wafting from down the road.

This moment is mine – simple and free for absorbing every little bit. It didn’t cost me anything, just the price of being awake, rising early to show up and experience it.

moments on Lake Tahoe dock

My writing over the last four years has evolved into an exercise in capturing moments – the intenseness, the frustration, and the beauty of loving fiercely, thinking deeply and teaching audaciously. As simple as it sounds, it truly has been anything but. Trying to capture the intenseness of the experiences of my life, endeavoring to scribble the sights and sounds and smells to share with an  unknown audience challenges me in such an acutely intriguing way. Snatching photos of moments to enhance my words has unlocked my view of what can be contained in a frame, forcing me to stop and think and consider what is around me.

It is forcing me to pay attention.

I breathe deeply, grateful to be here today.  As I approach 50 I feel a shift in my gratitude practice – it has become a slowing, a releasing of what is unnecessary, hurtful, and holding me back. Recently, a teacher friend asked me how long I thought she’d be able to keep up her energy for teaching. As I thought about it, I realized that it isn’t the energy level that changes – it’s the level of energy I want to use in different areas of life that changes. The more mindful I become to the moments around me, the more mindful I become to how I give of my time. I’m becoming selective and selfish and miserly with my time and energy, and at this point in life, I’d rather spend two hours soaking in the morning sun on this pier, writing and sipping coffee and thinking about this huge, wide Universe and this one wild life I’ve been given than just about anything else.

And I realize I’m on summer vacation now. I fully understand the gift of having a morning on a pier, the ability to not think about students and lessons and the outside life. It’s not the vacation energy I am so infatuated with. It’s an energy balanced by the peacefulness of aging, of being young enough to still settle in on the wooden dock, feeling the warm wood under my legs. To know all I have is all I need. To trust that my kids will be OK, that my husband will be well, and that my teaching will provide me with the means to fill another area of my life that’s opening up and calling for attention.

It’s an energy pushing me to pay attention, to write just for me while hopefully offering a glimmer into some part of life that needs to open up for you, too. Maybe this moment you’re suddenly paying attention to somewhere you’re stuck, or scared, or maybe you and I can find we’re kindred spirits-another soul who finds joy and happiness in thinking deeply, loving fiercely and teaching audaciously. Someone who doesn’t give a fuck about trying to impress you or do the things women are expected to do. Someone who wants her words to match her actions, and for her children to live fully and help make the world a more awesome place.

Someone who wants her life to matter.

Toni Morrison writes, “At some point in life the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint, or even remember it. It is enough.” I think I know what I’m doing now.

It is enough to just be here on this dock, at this moment, with the breeze blowing the pages of my spiral notebook and the sun blazing in my eyes, casting shadows as I write. This moment is too blinding to photograph. It’s just me, here, paying attention and capturing its beauty to share with my kindred spirits.

What Is The Best Way To Capture Moments

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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