Wednesday, October 11, 2006

be-safe

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.

19 comments:

MandiC said...

I won't lie, when I see the recent trends in violence it makes me wonder for a moment whether I want to be a teacher or not. I know that it worries my mother. But, along with that I know that this is what I was made to do and just like every other job has risks of being hurt, so does mine. I hope each school would be so bold as to mention this. We can't pull a blanket over an issue as serious as this one.

Tessa said...

It is true violence can happen anywhere at anytime. It seems to be a phase that is not a passing one. As tachers entering into this, it is scary. We will have to be there for the students, we will have to know what to do. Kind of a daunting task.

Traci said...

With all of these incidences occuring, it really has an impact on me and I'm sure others. As a future teacher I ask myself, "What would I do in that situation?" "Could I prevent it an any way from happening in my class?"

Amanda Johnson said...

Wow, I understand how Lexie feels. I also felt safe in my high school after Columbine (I went to high school no more than 10 miles away from Columbine). The principal got on the loudspeaker and simply told us everything was fine and we would be safe. But how can we be so sure? How was I as a student then 'so-sure'. How am I as a future teacher going to be tough and tell my students they will be safe? I can never know what will happen tomorrow. I strive to be safe, yet in the end, how do I keep my word? It's a question parents, teachers, and students are asking themselves everywhere.

Claire Gibson said...

Kids definatley need to be discussing what is going on across the country more and not less and they need to be talking to lots of different people in their lives about it. I think peers should talk to one another about how they feel, parents and their children should be discussing the situation as well as educators and their students. It may not make these horrible events stop but maybe it can help the impact that is has on the victims involved who were not physically harmed but who were meotionally harmed.

jules said...

It is sad that this has become a reality in small towns as well as big cities. I am scared to see my sister go off to high school! I am nervous that I am one day going to be in the middle of all of the angry mess. I haven't quite decided what I am going to say to my students if, God forbid, the issue ever becomes reality; but never the less i have been thinking about it. I hope that the time will never come that I will have to have a conversation about tragic violence in the schools, but I am sure that just as the sun will set, I will...so until then i will think.

deemae said...

school violence is a rather scary thought and many of us truly choose to ignore it or assume it will never happen here. i think it should be talked about so we can try to prevent such horrible acts and learn more about why they occur. it is great that you had this conversation with your children and i am sure they will some of the very few who have discussed it. What really has developed in our schooling to where violence now enters the doors with the students?

ctarver said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tropicana Orange said...

I too have noticed the trends of school violence. It no longer is the outside gang scares or the bears that escape the zoos. There are people out there messed-up enough to walk into a school and molest teenagers. What is wrong with this. Likewise, we have students going in their schools and shooting up everyone. I personally feel that a lot of it has to do with our societ and our ideals. I think so much of it has to do with the esteem and the images that we all try to uphold to. Some people mock people that are not ideal but strange. These students then act out, get tired of holding it in and feeling like they are less superior than someone else. Violence in the schools need to be addressed. It obviously is happening in all the places it is not supposed to. What can we do to make schools safer? how can we come up with a plan of action for events such as these. We dont know when they are going to happen or how.. likewise, if a student knows the plan of action can they not use that in their own plot? so I guess now being a teacher and a student leads to the same threats as being a police officer or firefighter, we are taking that chance everyday we go do our thing

jtwrig said...

Like your children, I was quite young when i had my first experience of school violence. At the time of Columbine, (I was a freshman) teachers and the media spoke about it in such an isolated manner that it almost seemed like a "fluke.' We went over some safety concerns; however, the conversations quickly stopped. I expected to hear a lot of buzz in the schools after Platte Canyon's tragedy. Once again, it wasn't really talked about. It really bothers me. Either as a society we are setting up a lot of boundaries regarding what is okay or not okay to talk about OR issues like school violence have become normalized. Either option seems frightening. I think that students, teachers and parents need to know that there is a plan in place. Students need to feel comfortable talking about these issues. It gives us more insight into their lives and experiences.

Marina said...

I remember when the Columbine shooting happened and our teachers did not let us talk about it that day. They informed us that we would be safe but should continue on with our school work. They did not tell us anything else. I was in middle school when it happened, but my school was right next to the high school I ended up going to, Cherry Creek High School. The same school both my brother and sister were currently attending. When I got home from school my sister told me that they didn't tell them anything either, just to continue on with school. I found it unnerving that we were not told why this happened and what precautions our schools were planning on taking. My sister told me that other high schools were on lockdown, but that was impossible at hers, since there are four different buildings. I did not like that fact that our teachers did not tell us anything. I believe it is better to tell students what may happen in the future, rather than keep them in the dark.

Brittany BAP said...

Violence has always been apart of life. Sometimes people forget that bad things can happen. We get into a mind set of safety and our fears and mortality don’t register with us. It’s a slap in the face when something bad does happen because we are caught off guard. I remember having many plans for disaster in the schools I went to as a child. The teachers were always saying that we would be fine and nothing would happen to us. I knew better. I knew the storage room between two classrooms was not going to fit 40 some students but we all felt safe knowing that the storage room was there. I think that violence is always going to accompany any situation in life. But having a plan even having one that may be far fetched will make you feel better. Feel safer.

Brittany B said...

Wow! I think these issues are difficult to bring to attention because of how uncomfortable it is to talk about. These issues cannot be ignored - or swept under the rug by any means, we must talk about them.

I think it is difficult to talk about because no one has any one solution to the problem. How do we prepare our students, and make them feel at ease about the whole situation? Talking about it is one thing, but like you said, preparing them for it is key too. Having a plan of what they would do "just in case" can only benefit them.

Violence is not going to go away overnight and we can't just keep avoiding it, and expect it to go away on it's own.

ctarver said...

Cindy,
I love the fact that you are taking the iniative to talk about school viloence, especially in a college setting, because so few people do. I have a son on the way, and I am more inclined to think about stuff like this, because sooner than I'd like, I would be sending him off to school. Frankly, this stuff frightens me.

brett strom said...

It is strange to me that i have not heard anything aboout the shooting in Baily, Colorado. I heard about it the day it happened but since then, except for now, in class, i have not heard any people talking about it at all. I wonder if people are just excepting it as a natural part of life. Do people think that things are so bad that this is the kind of thing is going to happen in classroom s from now on.

Brittany BAP said...

Violence has always been apart of life. Sometimes people forget that bad things can happen. We get into a mind set of safety and our fears and mortality don’t register with us. It’s a slap in the face when something bad does happen because we are caught off guard. I remember having many plans for disaster in the schools I went to as a child. The teachers were always saying that we would be fine and nothing would happen to us. I knew better. I knew the storage room between two classrooms was not going to fit 40 some students but we all felt safe knowing that the storage room was there. I think that violence is always going to accompany any situation in life. But having a plan even having one that may be far fetched will make you feel better. feel safer.

chase said...

This seems to be a scary reality in our lives in this day in age. i personally think that these tradgedys simply will not stop happening. i think that what our society needs to do is quit putting these shootings in the news. i feel that, not only do they add to the unhappy topics already discussed in the news, but they fuel the fire of these troubled students or non-students. i feel like if someone were to plan on doing something like this i think that there would be no more perfect time than right after another incident has just occurred. i do think that the victims need to be mourned, but at the same time i think that the more our society and our troubled teens hear about this, the more it is going to happen because they see it happening all the time. most of the time i think that these people want to get the publicity, and we sure as hell are giving it it to them. if we can have these tradgedys not be a part of our everyday media i believe it would really help the situation.

chase said...
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jtwrig said...

I know I already commented on your post, but I was recently having a conversation with an educator about the recent school events. I asked her about some of the policies or discussions that had occured in the school she was teaching at. We talked about some of the drills that they had practices (paper on the windows, desks as protection, etc) and then she mentioned something a few of her stduents had asked. They said, "ok so we know what to do if someone is inside our school, we will barricade ourselves in. But what do we do if it is ONE OF US in the room with the gun or whatever?" I was speechless for two reason. First, I was shocked that students would even be thinking about something that horrible, but also because neither myself nor the other educator could come up with an answer.