Freedom From Fear

When I wrote and posted my recent blog in response to the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday, I could not imagine that I would, only hours later, that Sunday evening, while preparing my lessons for Monday's classes, receive an automated all-call from my principal informing us about the events described here:

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When such news breaks, a teacher's first response is always the same: "Oh please don't let it be one of mine." You say this to yourself when thinking of the kids you teach who might be on either side–or both–of such a tragedy. In the last three years, we have had several incidents: one student posted threats online but far away; another student emailed threats using a classmate's account; and this student, who attended another school in our district, came armed with various weapons, among them pipe bombs. 

A colleague at another school today told me she has a student in her class who is on parole—for assaulting a teacher. But no one told her; I presume the argument is that the student has a right to privacy.

If I could, I would give the whole country—including the national media, our leaders, and those businesses related to the weapons used—a serious detention, all in the same room. I would tell them: Sit down. Stop talking. Start thinking—about where this all leads. Start thinking about what story the country wants to tell about itself; what story we want to tell about ourselves. What story we want our children to tell in the future when they look back on these days. For we are a great nation, capable of making any story come true when our hearts are one.

Last night, my wife's uncle Joe died at the age of 94. He fought in WWII at Utah Beach. He fought at the Battle of the Bulge. He started a small family-owned plumbing business with his father, which they grew into a business that provided for his family and sent his three daughters to school so they could live the better life all parents dream for their children.

Joe fought and worked hard so that his daughters would grow up free from fear but also free to learn and live as those fallen children in Newtown never will. When we bury Joe this week (as they bury more of the children from Sandy Hook Elementary), I will think not only of his example (and his laugh), but of those children who still live (and laugh), every one of whom it is our nation's sacred obligation to protect and provide for so that they may inherit and contribute to a world and a future that was stolen from their friends and classmates last week in Newtown.

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2 Responses to “Freedom From Fear”

  1. Teresa Bunner December 19, 2012 at 6:29 am

    You are so right, in so many ways, Jim. As you know, I taught in an alternative HS for several years. Kids were sent there many times if they were deemed “too dangerous” for the comprehensive HS. I can remember one counselor from another HS getting upset because I dared to question why a particular student was even being allowed to come to our school. She replied ” Well, he threatened a teacher. He can’t stay here.” I asked her if that meant I was any less valuable as a teacher. She had no response. Time and time again, we worked with kids that other school staff were afraid of, but they cared very little for us as colleagues at another school. I found most of the kids to be absolutely wonderful, but it irks me to no end that our school was an easy out for not dealing with some of the deeper issues. Something has to change.

  2. joleigh kirkland December 19, 2012 at 8:19 am

    Teachers could be the first line of defense. Most of us have spotted “troubled” children in our classes and sometimes have been able to get them help. Having taught in an inner city school with a very diverse population, I have seen children with all kinds of “issues.” We need more counselors and social workers in the schools to intervene when and where teachers cannot. Classroom teachers also need more special ed and mental health training. I got my training over thirty years of classroom contact with students. New teachers coming into the classroom NEED more training as we are finding more and more children need specialized help!

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