When I got into the teaching field, at 25, I wanted to be that teacher I wanted to have in high school. The teacher that you would feel safe around, that would make you laugh, be silly, make your day better, love you, made you feel important and safe.
Safe, a word that every parent thinks about when dropping their kids off at school every morning. We drop them off to their second home, their second parents that make sure they are learning and held accountable for their behavior.
When we hear the words school safety, as a teacher we are always thinking about protecting our students from bullying, school fights, and checking on their mental health well being. Creating a safe space has never meant to any teacher I know, or any parent, shielding kids from gun shots.
These past couple of years have been heavy, very heavy in our public schools; extra security, heavy police presence, no class outside for safety reasons, students feeling scared in the building everyday, making school shooter jokes to make light of our “new normal” situation.
In my 11 years of teaching, I strongly believe that I have created an environment for my kids where they can talk to me about so many things, they feel respected and listened to, and more importantly, they feel safe.
Despite all the drills, and all the lockdowns that luckily never became anything bigger than just that, it is now a challenge to reassure and promise our kids that nothing will ever happen to them. The inability to promise my students this one basic right they should get when they come to school is slowly killing me on the inside. Everyday I look into their eyes while I teach them, or make them laugh, or help them with homework, I feel a constant sadness that constantly reminds me that I cannot give everything. There is a missing piece, a missing piece that involves the fact that any person from the street could walk on campus freely, wait until students are walking to lunch all at the same time, or at dismissal, and the most feared and terrible thing that generated so much anxiety for months becomes a reality.
Schools are lacking a huge piece, which is a focus on mental health. We as teachers can counsel as much as we can, but unless we have professional people doing the work everyday in our schools, school shootings will not be ending anytime soon.
I know a lot of ways this country has failed its public teachers and students, but the level of nonchalance I have witnessed about this national emergency is beyond disturbing. This is becoming normal, the expectations are raised academically, but yet we can’t expect to feel safe where it all starts. It could continue to end… where it all starts :’(