There have been two mass shootings within two-weeks of one another. Most recent being that of the Uvalde Elementary School, which took the lives of 19 children and two adults. We see and have been seeing congressmen and women arguing back and forth, pointing the figure at one another, with no movement towards an agreement on gun control. We see the expressing of frustrations from those in the public eye. We hear the cries and feel the pain from the parents who have lost their children, husbands who have lost their wives, wives who have lost their husbands, children who will never be hugged by their parents. However, we have not moved the needle on addressing these concerns. Therefore, I want to share what my fears are each day I enter into my school building as a public-school educator.
Educators wear many hats during the school day. From our traditional roles of Principal/AP, School Counselor, Psychologist, Social Worker, Teacher, etc. We also must play the role as Crisis Interventionist. Typically, when we use this term, it is usually in reference to a person's position who addresses the behavioral concerns demonstrated by students. Where the person in the hired position will respond to calls from teachers when a student is miss-behaving in a classroom and disturbing the learning environment. However, we educators must manage the crisis when school shootings occur.
Many of our students become severely impacted by the school shootings that occur in this country. Even when these incidents occur in a completely separate state, fear consumes our students that we begin to see an uptick in reports of Anxiety, Bullying, & Concerns for students' safety in regard to their peer's mental well-being. Teachers are on high alert to recognize any changes in a students' demeanor. Administrators are constantly reassuring the students, staff, and community that safety is our number one priority. School Counselors are locked in their office addressing their students concerns and de-escalating them from experiencing heighten levels of anxiety. We also see more of a police presence either at the school, during arrival/dismissal, or in the community, to ensure safety and help us to feel safer. This often heightens a student's anxiety and begins to draw more of a concern. This is when I get students coming to me asking, "Why are there so many police officers here today, did something happen?" Then the rumor wheel gets going. "Someone said our school was threatened, is that true.?" " Is that why there are more police here than usual?"
School shootings should never happen. However, these things happen so much that there is a constant fear in my mind as I enter and maneuver throughout the school building each day.
At morning duty this year, I'm located in the front of the building with my 8th grade students. All grade levels have their own entrance to the building where we await the bell to ring at 8am to allow students to enter in. My antennas are always on alert at this time. Just in front of where we stand is the "car rider drop-off loop." My head is constantly on a swivel, looking at my students, checking the cars, looking at my students, checking the cars, over and over again. I do so, because I am afraid that one day, I will need to jump in front of a car window to prevent my students from being targeted by gunfire. Why students have to wait outside in the mornings until the bell rings, I am not sure. However, I know this not only happens at my school, but several. I have not brought this concern to my principal's attention but will now that I am thinking about it.
Once the bell rings, doors open, and students are allowed to enter in. My fear is there may be a student that day, that decides that day, is in fact that day. So, as students are cramming themselves into the entrances of the building, I am constantly scanning the crowd of students looking for any red flags. While watching students, still keeping an eye on the car loop, and intercepting adults approaching the doors.
Once students are safely in their classes, my fear is not put to rest. Throughout the day, anytime I pass a set of doors that leads to outside, I am checking it to make sure it is locked. Whenever I hear the beeps before the intercom comes on for an announcement, my anxiety goes up, hoping it is not for an actual lockdown. When I am in my office, which has windows towards the car loop, I keep my shades down so no one outside can see me sitting in my office. When I am meeting with a student in my office, I often close my door to ensure confidentiality. However, when I see someone pass by the small window, I look at the doorknob to make sure it is locked. I also stare at the door for a sec to see if I need to turn off my light, block the window from sight, and have my student to get under my desk.
During lunch duty, I try to enter the cafeteria before the students so I can check and make sure the doors are locked. Even while students are eating and enjoying the company of their friends, I re-check the doors just in case. God, forbid I see someone walking towards the main entrance. I stare at them until they are either buzzed in or walk away. Just in case I need to throw myself in harm's way.
Like morning duty, I often don't want to go to afternoon duty. For the simple reason there are too many factors to consider. The car loop, cars parked across the street as parents wait for their child, traffic jams hoping no one has road range and that gets aimed at the students. Parents who like to park, exit their vehicles, and meet their child at the sidewalk to give them a hug and walk them to the car.
Like my school, most only have one School Resource Officer. He/she cannot be at all places at once. Some schools don't even have one SRO. I believe every school should have at least one. My hope and prayer is that changes will occur. That we can stop pointing the finger between Democrats & Republicans and come to an agreement, so we educators and students can feel safe and be protected in our learning environment.
I Am Conquering Mountains