Parkland happened on February 14, turning a day of love into a day of anguish. And the tentacles of trauma have extended far beyond the borders of that far away little Florida town and reached into this little one, 1200 miles away.
On February 15 we spent the class period talking and feeling and imagining what we would do if that terrible circumstance arrived at our classroom door. We took an inventory trying to figuring out what we can use as weapons to defend ourselves from an intruder with a gun. It was kind of like that creativity challenge where they ask you how many uses you can think of for a paper clip.
We decided we could use the inspirational word rocks and the wailing wall bricks and the Chromebooks as projectiles to shock some sense into him, or empathy, or just to knock him out. We decided what we would push in front of the door, which tables we would flip to hide behind, whether it would be a good idea to try to get out a second-story window, maybe landing on some floor pillows that we’d toss out before we tossed ourselves.
That was a heavy day in English class, and it wasn’t the only day we had to have that conversation, which we should never have to have.
But on February 16 we played one of our favorite vocabulary review games, there was laughter, and learning, friendly rivalry and fabulous prizes, and it was almost like we weren’t in the after of a school shooting. Almost.
One true thing about school, as teacher or student, is that to make the most of it, you have to pay attention to the now. Of course, I guess that is true about most things in life, but it’s definitely true about school. It’s hard to be in the moment, and in fear at the same time, but another true thing about school is that it’s really hard not to be in the now when you are in a room full of kids.
The fear, and the just-in-case planning, those aren’t about now. They take us out of today and into some imagined future. But the just-in-case planning gives a little bit of power back to us in the face of tragedy and terror unimaginable. It makes it a little easier to be in the now as we move on through the after.
It enrages me that I, that we, have to think about these things–that we can’t just think about learning words to enhance our reading comprehension and learning sentence constructions that can add life to our writing and learning to enjoy, or even create a good story.
But that’s what we are going to do today.