In my short time here as a regular contributor to Three Teachers Talk, this was the latest I’d waited before composing a post. Though, that’s not really true. I had a post mostly written last week where I reflected on this year we had and looked forward to a new start next year at a new school. It would have been similar to this recent and amazing post by Sarah Morris.
Then Friday happened- 10 lives gone and countless others changed forever.
I struggled this weekend with how this post was going to go. I’m not looking for sympathy here because obviously the 10 families who lost loved ones or the kids who watched their classmates be gunned down in front of them are truly the ones deserving of our hearts.
Like so many not directly affected by this tragedy, though, I struggled.
I struggled to stay composed when a student quietly sat down next to me at 7:55 am and said, “Coach, did you see this?” His phone showed a social media post about students being shot a high school not too far from us.
I struggled because I realized how comfortable I am using the term “active shooter” in a text message to my wife at 8:11 Friday Morning. This was the text message I sent her after I pulled up a local news website to see if it was true or anther false alarm.
I struggled because when my student council president told me she was scared walking down the hall at 1:00 that afternoon, the only response I could muster was, “I am too, and I think its going to feel like this for a while.”
I struggled remembering that I wore my #msdstrong t-shirt to visit the Sequoias at spring break hoping to send a little bit of support to those in Parkland, Florida who lived through this earlier in the semester.
(Side note: I was at exactly this point in writing my post when my student council president called and asked if we can sell t-shirts to help support Santa Fe High School.)
I struggled because when my babies, a 2nd grader and a 5th grader, got off the bus at 3:30, I felt obligated to sit them down and tell them that a boy at a local high school decided he needed to kill his classmates. I couldn’t hold back the tears and my daughter, in her innocence, asked if my school had had to go into a “lock down.” She’s very familiar with what that means.
I struggled early Friday evening when, sitting in a colleague’s living room, myself and several other teachers celebrated the retirement of a woman who gave 44 years of her life to this profession. I looked at the teachers sharing stories and laughs, at the sleepy dog on the floor, and the nine month old baby that kept stealing everyone’s attention. I wondered how I could balance feeling thankful to have spent the last 11 years working with this amazing person and at the same time think about how thankful I was to be alive. I felt thankful that my school wasn’t the one to lose lives that morning, and that made me feel horrible.
I struggled when, an hour and a half later I was sitting in a quiet backyard celebrating the upcoming graduation of two of the most amazing people I’ve ever known. They are twins and I got to be the boy’s position coach in football for four years and the girl is my previously mentioned student council president. Their parents are amazing too and as I sat there visiting with them, I couldn’t wrap my head around how our society can produce these kids and also produce a mass killer less than 13 miles away. He took the lives of innocent kids, like these, that morning. Kids who who had so much to look forward to and didn’t do anything to deserve death.
I struggled because, once again, I had to think about whether or not I would be able to protect my students if bullets flew at my school. I asked my self the questions: Am I doing the best I can to stop this from happening again? Is there really anything I can do? Is there anything anyone can do?
I struggled because I knew we can’t take up all the guns and I’m not sure, if asked, that I would give up mine. We can’t eradicate mental health issues. We can’t hold schools inside of solid-steel sealed boxes.
I didn’t just struggle. I also hoped.
I hoped that instead of turning inward, we can turn outward. That maybe we can intervene in these students’ lives in ways that goes beyond dress codes, GPAs and graduation rates. Perhaps we can instill a sense of urgency in our young people, our future, that causes a change in them where instead of acting out their demons on one another, they look to each other for acceptance, love, or even just help. Maybe we can be more like the players and coaches of the Clear Springs Baseball Team who dedicated their game Friday night to Santa Fe.
I hope that even though I’m not sponsoring student council at my next school, I can help build on what we did this year. I was lucky enough to be chosen to present at our district’s upcoming Character Conference on June 6th. I’m sure there will be presenters at Clear Lake High School that day who can help make change. I won’t technically be presenting, just facilitating what I think might be the only student presenters at the conference. The student council officers of Clear Springs High School will share their stories of reaching out to our elementary feeder schools in an effort to build leadership and pass on the lessons they’ve learned to the next generation. Maybe more students like them can make connections that help prevent massacres.
I hope more teachers and administrators realize that our students can do amazing things when we give them the space and the resources they need. When we keep them free of the burden the adults choose to carry. But the adults can help too. I can’t think this would have happened if shooter had more access to books and less access to guns. I can’t help but wonder if we treat our students with more gravitas then they just might tell us when they think something like this is going to happen and maybe we can have the chance to stop it.
I hope the teachers at my new school get used to a man (who’s been mistaken for a grizzly bear) telling other peoples’ babies that he loves them. I hope I’m not the last person to tell them that.
Charles Moore is a teacher in League City, TX. He is enjoys welcoming his kids off the bus with a smile and a hug every afternoon and making sure the dishes, laundry and other household needs are met before his wife gets home from work. The student council he sponsors will, hopefully, be selling t-shirts these next two weeks to support the Santa Fe community. Please email him if you are interested in helping and follow his twitter @ctcoach for more information.