I woke up this morning to the barrage of media covering yet another unimaginable mass shooting. The families and extended communities of 17 high school children must now grapple with the loss of the lives that were and the lives that would have been.
As I sit here writing this post with tears in my eyes, I am struggling with the overwhelming need to will away the inner voice that is asking, “What if it had been my student? What if it had been my child?” Most of you know that I’m a fierce advocate for language learners who are still looking to find their success story in this educational system – a system in their home. But today I am an advocate for life, for love, for our children, and a nation that must heal, yet again. Today my heart mourns for the families, the students, the staff, and the community that will be impacted by these events for long after the story is covered.
Regardless of the student population we serve, I urge us to consider what we say to children and students as they work to understand this level of violence and question just how safe they are. My daughter, who asked me with a shaky voice about the events, has taught me that age-appropriate transparency about the events and the permission to experience whatever emotions emerge is at least one step to help begin the process of healing.
I sit here, un-apologetically angry, hurt, confused, and afraid. Afraid of the violence. Afraid for the families of these 17 children and whether they’ll ever be able to find a sense of normal again. Afraid of the number of children that don’t know how to handle disappointment, and failure, and a host of other emotions that are natural to the human experience. Afraid of institutions using this event as the catalyst to create harsher and more punitive consequences for violence and aggression without also working to create a society that communicates care, respect, and the value of overcoming challenges. I’m afraid of guns continuing to ravish schools and communities. I am afraid for all our children, for my children, for their children’s children.
But sitting in the dark and doing nothing is something I refuse to do. As we begin to heal, I know that I will be one of many who are compelled and open to engage in some difficult and uncomfortable conversations – conversations between educators, stakeholders, and politicians about what it means to have a democracy that puts value on intimate relationships with children, not just as students, but as individuals – a democracy that does not allow guns in the hands of children. We must work together, courageously and with love, to examine ourselves, our society, and the structures that help this younger generation to deal with the challenges of life more critically, with more understanding, and a greater sense of consciousness and responsibility, rather than with rage and explosive anger. To anyone who influences the lives of children and my colleagues– past, present, and future – please don’t let this “news” pass, our children’s lives depend on it.