A few years ago, one of my fifth grade students approached me before school started. Her face was bordering on anguish. She looked me in the eye and asked, “Teacher, is it true that there will be a shooting this morning?” I knew her well. Death was part of her life at her short 10 years of age. That morning, rumors were circulating throughout the school. Our director ordered that we do a soft lockdown. That meant that we could hold our classes as usual, but we had to have our doors locked and not allow anyone to go to the bathroom.
Is it normal that every day in the United States our children have to prepare for possible shootings as if they were “natural disasters” such as tornadoes or earthquakes? Is it normal for teachers to spend professional development hours preparing to respond to shootings? Is it normal to have meetings with police officers about their “time of response” after the shooting started?
There is always that quiet, private second when you feel fear. An unspeakable fear that you cannot transmit to your students. A fear that reveals how fragile everything is. Fear of an ethereal threat taking my students, my colleagues, me. Then you think of your own children and their schools. And since they are already in kindergarten, they are practicing confinement, hiding in their classrooms, barricading, learning to be quiet… but asking.
Education is trust. It is many more things, but it is also trust. Families trust that their children will be respected and loved, that they will learn and grow as people. And they do. But when these things happen, when someone violates this space and goes on a hunt, the space is no longer the home of learning. Everything turns into a nightmare.
It is not just a specific school that suffers from these traumas. They are all our schools, all our kids, all our teachers, because the school is all of us.
And silence reigns. It is the silence of the authorities, and I say silence, because when they speak and do nothing it is as if they were silent. When nothing is done, when nothing is learned, the memory of those boys and girls who were murdered in the corridors of their schools is further harmed. The nightmare rages against those families who lost their little ones, because they cannot even say that it marked a before and after in the country’s history.
It’s not normal for me to look at my children tonight, caress their heads and start crying.