« Generating controversy... | Home | Expression of support... »

April 17, 2007

Feeling it deeply...

I got the first snippet yesterday when the Coach came into the library to check his email after school.

"Did you hear what happened in Virginia?"

Having just seen T off a few hours before, my heart sunk. "No, what?"

He came into my office and leaned over my desk, where I had been hunched for the past hour finishing up an application and trying to ignore everyone. He spoke low, looking over his shoulder, to make sure no one else heard him.

"Well, I just heard there was a shooting at Virginia Tech. At least 20 dead."

"Holy crap, no! I hadn't heard. I'll have to look it up when I finish this." and for a moment, I was secretly relieved that it was so far away from where T was. I went back to my work, under deadline and sweating it, putting the news in the back of my mind for just a little while. I left in a rush without taking the time to look anything up.

After running the application packet across town, I was headed to pick up dinner when my phone rang. It was T, on his way to class, which reminded me of what Coach had said. I was relieved to hear his voice and, knowing I had been under a rock for the better part of a day (we are effectively sealed off from the outside world in our little school) he filled me in on what he knew about what had happened. The gravity began sinking in.

By the time I got home, it was all anyone could talk about. I went to sleep watching it on the late news. I woke up to it at 2 am and could not get back to sleep. The more I heard, the more questions I had and the more stressed out I got. The thought of going to school this morning was scary, the thought of sending my kids to school even scarier. These incidents always spawn copycats. Even kids joking about it can cause a panic. Violence in schools is just not something we that work in the schools have a sense of humor about.

I used to belong to a messageboard (now defunct) that had a thread about students getting suspended for having a fake gunfight in a crowded cafeteria. Two months ago, with school violence a distant memory, many members of the board made light of the situation. Sure, those assholes in the school systems freak out over the littlest things. Here was part of my response:

Guess I'm just one of the assholes chiming in but ... I work in an elementary school ... even if I'm in another part of the school when something happens (a fight, a suspicious person on campus, a threatening situation), all the kids talk about it, many of them genuinely scared. Then these kids go home, tell their parents and the parents freak out (because we are supposed to give their children a SAFE environment to learn in) and the school system and the local media is flooded with accusations, half-truths, complaints and lawsuits.

We have drills for what to do in case someone comes on campus with a weapon. In my 4 years at this school, we have had 2 full lockdowns (weapons on campus) as well as several partial lockdowns (disruptive persons in the building, robbery in the neighborhood with suspects on foot) ... and we aren't in a high crime neighborhood. Our motto is "Better safe than sorry".

Now, the commercial is hilarious. I get it. Kids probably love it. But we are trained as teachers and administrators in public schools to provide a safe environment for our students ... I just completed 6 hours of Non-Violent crisis intervention (basically, what to do if a student freaks out and tries to hurt themselves or anyone else). Sure, it seems like harmless fun but there have been too many real school shootings, to many kids killed, for people to joke about it, especially in a crowded cafeteria.

The article doesn't mention if these kids regularly got into trouble before this. The administrators didn't know if this *joke* could have been a prelude to something more serious. After all, Senior pranks have been known to get out of hand and 'tis the season.

Apparently the gunman yesterday had a history of irrational and destructive behavior, starting fires in dorm rooms, stalking women and writing incredibly violent stories for his creative writing classes. Yesterday he snapped. Will there be lingering questions about how and why and what if? Of course there will. We will never know the whole story, really, but I'm sure the theories will be bandied about for a long time to come.

But today, as hung over and depressed as I felt, I went to school and took care of my students. Many of them talked to me about the incident. Most of them asked why they didn't have lockdowns like we do at our school. All of them seemed scared. I told them I was too, but not while I was at school. I don't have a choice.

I thought about the student victims a lot today, and their families. I can't begin to imagine what it would be like to lose one of my children to such a sudden, senseless act of violence. I though a lot about the professors that were killed, too. They did nothing but go to work yesterday morning. Teaching is one of those jobs that is a lot of stress and responsibility for very little return. When something like this happens, it really makes me second guess my chosen profession.

My heart is breaking tonight. My thoughts and prayers are with the Hokies and their families.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Prosemonkey published on April 17, 2007 8:04 PM.

Generating controversy... was the previous entry in this blog.

Expression of support... is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.