My daughter Kristin posted this to her own blog yesterday. I thought it deserved a wider audience, so I am posting it here, edited sightly for length, with her permission.
It has been a little over a month since the Sandy Hook shootings, and not a day goes by that I don’t think about the 26 lives lost that day. Each day as I step foot into my workplace, my mind almost immediately goes to Connecticut, and I think of that horrible day.
Unusual, you may ask? Not if you know that my workplace is an elementary school. I am a “special area” teacher at a local elementary school, and spend my weekdays teaching students in grades K-5, working with close to 150 different kids in one day. Thirty of the kids I see each day are first graders, the same age as the 20 sweet children who lost their lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Just days before that dreadful day in Newtown, CT, our school had a safety drill. For the protection and safety of our students, I cannot and will not give details on the actual drill or procedures, but I will tell you that every time we have this drill, at least one student asks why we have it. My answer is almost always something like, “to practice being safe” or to “help keep you safe.” Many times students will discuss among themselves before or after the drill that we have to practice “hiding from the bad guys” or to “lock the bad guys out.” Some have to be imagining what the “bad guy” looks like or what “he” might do. I’ve had first graders or kindergarten students in class during one of these drills, and I always have a few that are frightened, even though they know it is just a drill.
When I’ve had to review procedures for the drill, I’ve seen the wide eyes staring back at at me, filled with either fear or wonder. They are thinking, “What could be so bad in school that we would need to hide in the first place?” I’ve even likely said to a few of them “nothing bad would ever happen here” or similar words. After all, it isn’t likely or common for elementary students to bring guns to school to shoot other students, right? And who would shoot a bunch of elementary school kids anyway? *sigh*
I can’t help thinking that the teachers and staff of Sandy Hook Elementary had those same thoughts and uttered those same words whenever they had to reassure children during their school safety drills. I can’t let myself go to the place they might have been mentally on December 14, 2012, when “all hell broke loose.”
And then I think, “How did we get here?”
How did we get to the point where these drills are needed in the first place? Why is it that we have to teach our children to hide from “bad guys” in one of the places they should feel safest? The “real world” can be a scary one to elementary school students. Heck, the real world can be scary for students of all ages! That “big scary world” isn’t supposed to invade their schools, playgrounds or homes! They should always feel safe at home as well as to play outside or hang with friends at the local mall. And children most certainly should feel safe when they go to school every day.
I remember being in elementary school (it was just yesterday after all, right?) and the only drills we ever had were those to protect us if there was a fire or a bad storm in the area. What has become of our society that children now have to worry about being safe at school in addition to all of the other scary “real world” places? What has become of our society that when parents kiss their kids goodbye in the mornings before putting them on the bus or dropping them off at the school door, they have to hope and pray they will have the chance to kiss them again at the end of the day?
I thought about making this post about gun control, because all of the latest talk has gotten me really thinking about it again. However, I am not writing this to start a debate. Guns, after all, are just part of the problem. I want to make people stop and think, to stop arguing and to listen.