Of all the sunsets I've seen worldwide, Colorado's are my favorite, but Colorado sunsets in autumn are my favorite of favorites. My daughter and I saw one on her way home from work yesterday. Blue mountains. Trees ablaze. Gilded suggestions of clouds in an otherwise pristine sky.
Against this gorgeous backdrop, our conversation turned to the relentless instances of school violence in recent weeks. The day before yesterday, a 13-year-old brought an AK-47 replica to his middle school and fired a round into the ceiling before the gun jammed. I read in the paper today that prosecutors are seeking permission to try him as an adult.
My son is 12. He's no adult.
And this didn't take place in NYC or LA. Try Joplin, Missouri. Like Platte Canyon, CO, Lancaster, PA, and Cazenovia, WI, a place where this isn't supposed to happen. (But is it ever supposed to happen anywhere?)
Since teacher-bloggers and, according to my students, their preservice classrooms have been curiously silent on the subject (see one notable exception Bud Hunt found for me), I've decided we need to talk about it in my CO301D class. So we're reading articles and blogging our own ideas on these matters over the next few days.
I was also curious to see if any conversations had occurred at my daughter's high school, thus our sunset conversation. She said the principal came over the intercom the day after Platte Canyon and told the students not to be afraid because the school would do everything they could to keep them safe. The following day, her English teacher told the class that plain-clothes police officers would be roaming the commons area over the next several days because a gang fight had taken after school. The teacher went on to review what they should do if the school went into lockdown. "Mom, he said, 'I'm not going to lie to you. This classroom is probably the most vulnerable in the school because we have all these windows, but here's what we would do if something happened.'" He went on to tell them what to do if he wasn't there, where to find the key to lock the door and how to deal with the windows. "You know, Mom, in case there was a sub or something," she said.
(I'm not so sure he was talking about a sub.)
Sitting there, thinking about the inadequacy of plans and procedures when 13-year-olds are carrying assault rifles around in their backpacks, I asked her if the conversation made her feel safe. I was surprised by her answer.
"Yeah, it really did. No one ever thinks anything will ever happen in their safe little town, so they don't talk about it. Well, it can happen anywhere, and if it does, it makes kids feel safer when they know what they can do."
I think Lexie is right, though I hate it that she's had to come to such wisdom at the ripe old age of 18. These events do prove that unthinkable violence can happen anywhere and no fail-safe plan exists. (And I think about this every morning when I see my kids off to school.) But it helps somehow to talk about it, to have a plan even in the face of our vulnerability.
In coming posts, I'll let you know what I and my students, who are studying to be teachers, think English teachers in particular might be able to do. In the meantime, be-safe.