Everyone is talking about it. So let’s talk about it.
I would take a bullet for your child, mama. As I write that I’m teary eyed because I can see my 8 month old baby playing on her mat. I would protect your child with my life. I love them, and you trusted me with the most important thing in the world to you. I would die protecting your child, but I shouldn’t have to.
We have lockdown drills. Procedures in place. But what is a locked door to someone with a gun? It’s just a sign that a class is inside hiding. Stifling cries. Praying. Panicking. I’m fairly certain every teacher has their own real lockdown plan. Are there closets large enough? Can furniture be moved in front of the door? Can we make it to the tree line from the windows?
Instead of practicing for a horrible event, how about we work on preventing it? How about we look at our gun laws. Is there any reason someone needs an automatic rifle? Just because they want one? Well, I want to live. I want my 33 students to live. I want my baby to be able to go to school when she’s older... and live. Why should your right be more important than my life?
“Guns don’t kill people.... people kill people.” What if these disturbed individuals didn’t have the means to take out a dozen people in the blink of an eye? Even if they decided to commit an atrocious act, wouldn’t it be better to limit the reach of their hate and their bullets? The world will never be perfect. There will always be tragedies. But just like those who sit by and watch bullying without stepping in, isn’t us continuing to watch these horrific events unfold and not taking action just as bad?
“I have the right to bear arms.” What do you need to bear arms for? Protection? Get a handgun if you ABSOLUTELY must have a gun. I highly doubt you’ll ever find yourself in a situation where you’re facing 25 home invaders at once. If you do, your odds aren’t good no matter what firearms you have. They probably have them too- and 24 more of them than you do. For fun? Shoot a regular rifle at a target. Although, I do feel like you could find other means of having fun but... either way, I’m certain you don’t NEED an automatic rifle.
“The Constitution says so!” Does it? Does it say we have the right to bear mass-shooting weapons? I’m fairly certain they didn’t exist at that point. Should we also be able to own grenade launchers as long as we have an ID? That sounds silly, right? So does us owning an AR-15. No civilian needs that.
“Drugs are illegal and that hasn’t stopped drug dealers!” While that is true, I imagine it has greatly limited those choosing to deal drugs. It has limited the availability. You don’t swing by Walmart with your driver’s license and pick up a bag of cocaine along with your kale. Once again, does that sound crazy? Yes, but so does picking up an assault rifle at Walmart. While making it illegal wouldn’t make it IMPOSSIBLE to get, it would make it harder and that is a step in the right direction.
The direction where we see fewer thoughtsandprayers hashtags. Fewer shooters’ psychological profiles being done far too late. Fewer articles listing the red flags a shooter displayed. Fewer failures of our systems.
I went to a college with a mass shooting. One of the girls in my class was killed. She used to be an Army contractor but her parents wanted her to have a safer job. She was getting an elementary education degree. It was so upsetting that what should have been a safer path is what ended her life. Sadly, it continues to be a threat to teachers everywhere.
I came home and hugged my baby a little tighter. I will go in next week and hug my kiddos. I will worry any time I see the alert system lights come on, but I won’t show it. We will follow our procedures for drills hoping that they take them seriously but not fully understand exactly what that means. My first graders say “in case there’s a bad guy” and that’s as much as I want them to know. I don’t want my 6 year old students going home thinking “I survived another school day. I didn’t die today.” We should do better for them. What is more important, your right to own something or a child’s life? Think about it, America.
So, little Susie didn’t get straight A’s. Well, straight 1’s, because little Susie is too young for letter grades. And you’re bummed. No, you’re mad. You’re thinking she won’t get into a good college. She won’t ever become the doctor you want her to be. Everything is ruined and she is only 5. You are about to march yourself into that teacher’s classroom and tell her exactly why Susie deserved straight 1’s. She is precious and perfect and couldn’t possibly make mistakes. I ask you to slow your roll, mama. Take a breath. You said it yourself, she is 5.
It isn’t the end of the world. It isn’t even the end of the week. Maybe she doesn’t know all of her ABCs, but she is kind. Isn’t that the more important thing? Don’t you want her to be the one who asks lonely kids to play? The one who hugs her classmate when he falls down and tells him that he will be alright? The one who cleans up the class library simply because it is the right thing to do? That isn’t on a report card, but it is infinitely more important. I promise you her teacher notices and loves her for it, she just can’t fit it in the little box and admin demands data. She nurtures her strengths but also acknowledges her weaknesses and informs you so that you can work as a team.
What you teach her by yelling at her teacher will impact her life more than receiving a 2 on a report card. You will teach her that when she doesn’t get her way, yelling is the appropriate response. She learns that bullying someone gets what she wants. Grades you earned don’t mean anything and there is a way to change it. Why do your work? Mom will step in and fix it for you. Until Mom can’t, and then you don’t have the skills to cope. You will teach her that grades are all that matter, and that will morph into the idea that money is all that matters as she gets older.
Instead, let’s praise her for her compassion, her sense of humor, and her creativity. Let’s show her that she’s more than just a number. We will tell her that there are things that she needs to practice, but that we will be there to help her through it. We will show her that hard work and perseverance pay off. Accomplishing things she couldn’t do before will do so much more for her self-esteem than seeing a 1 her mom got her on a piece of paper with no significance to her. The 1 doesn’t mean anything to her unless you make it mean something to her. It shouldn’t. That report card is for you, mama. For our team. It is there to help little Susie; let’s not let it hurt her. Oh, and Harvard isn’t going to check her kindergarten report card. I promise.
“Let them be little.” Those four little words are more than a song title or a trending hashtag. They’re important and it is a phrase that schools should keep in mind. I teach first grade. We have 20 minutes of recess. They spend almost 7 hours sitting. I have discussed—nay, argued with as much respect as I could muster— with admin that this is not conducive to teaching six year olds. I even begged for an extra ten minutes so we could have two fifteen minute breaks. The answer I received? “It is mandated that we are only allowed a 20 minute recess.” I hit them with research about gross motor skills, attention, focus, and all of the other benefits of more unstructured play. I was told there is nothing that they can do and we would get in trouble if we were caught giving more recess. So, you’ll see us outside doing “outdoor learning” from time to time. “ADMIN ALERT-GRAB A CLIPBOARD AND LOOK BUSY!”
Unfortunately, recess isn’t the only problem. We are taking away free play in classrooms and any activity not deemed “standards based.” Now, don’t get me wrong, teachers are wizards at tying things to standards. However, should we have to be? Shouldn’t we be able to make a Groundhog Day hat just because it is fun? Isn’t it important that kids enjoy school? That they see the “silly” and “exciting” in it? That they get up in the morning and can’t wait to see what they will do at school? Sure, we can make stations fun. We can make an engaging vocabulary game. But we should also be able to make a craft without panicking that admin will walk in and that our kids can’t tell them what standard they are working on.
Not only are we eliminating fun at school, but we aren’t giving these students valuable experiences that they might not be getting elsewhere. I am shocked when kids tell me they don’t have markers at home or have never made a necklace. Seeing a child use tape will blow your mind (like, seriously, Billy…you have to CONNECT TWO THINGS with tape. Putting it on one sheet of paper does not actually accomplish anything. Anyways, I digress…). When asking what my students are going to be doing on a nice day, more often than not I get “I’m going to play video games” or “I’ll play on my iPad.” Many kids these days are not putting together puzzles, making art with glitter glue and feathers, or making masks for a play they created when they are at home. I know robots seem to be more and more entrenched in our lives but….I’m starting to be concerned that we are turning into robots ourselves.
We proudly walked out with our groundhog hats today and were not questioned. However, I was ready with “We made them as part of the anticipatory set to creating our six week weather tracking journals in which we will collect data and graph our results.” When I run into admin in the hallway while on planning and they shoot me a “Where are the kids?” and I reply with a sarcastic “Ah, they’ve got some coloring pages, it’s fine” it hurts my heart a little because they know my kids wouldn’t just be coloring.
welcome to my mess
I've always dreamed of being one of those moms who makes Bento Box lunches with artisan sandwiches cut out into cute shapes along with carrot sticks and grapefruit that my perfect children will gobble up, but I am fairly certain my child is going to end up with a package of deli meat and a Snickers bar. I can barely get myself ready in the morning and I once screwed up a grilled cheese maker. Who knew the top part of the grilled cheese maker also heated up? Spoiler alert: everyone. I'm not sure who decided I was capable of raising a human, but they handed her off to me anyways and I love her more than I can begin to explain. However, love isn't magic--despite what Disney claims. I cannot suddenly wake up without 46 snoozes or manage my time well enough to have the opportunity to use conditioner in my hair. I'm still me. I just have a cute mini-me now. I have a master's degree in education and a participation award for adulting. Please follow me on my journey and give me a wave if you ever end up on the struggle bus with me. I also frequent the hot mess express, and I check my email on occasion. Wherever you run into me, just know I woke up like this. No, seriously...I didn't have time to do anything else.