Category: stop gun violence

Day One Hundred Fifty-Nine

You know, today was glorious, at first. It’s a perfect spring day, it’s payday Friday, and Mr. W and I did a karate demo for my ninth graders during World (and it was so much fun). Katas, tricks with body mechanics, sparring… Mr. W did the “one inch punch” to me (on my shoulder so I could twist and dissipate some of the force, and Mr. F still had to catch me).

And then there as an incident in the hall.

And then our SRO hurried of for… something.

And then there was a shooting. 

Again.

I’ve said before that nothing is as wrenching as listening to kids in public schools after mass shootings. The resignation is terrible. But there’s a defiant joy, afterwards, and a desire to affirm life. 

And so I found myself here with my athletes this afternoon:

That’s the public beach a few towns over, where we gathered for a team spag. Conference championships are tomorrow. 

Day One Hundred Forty-Four

Today started with APUSGOV. I collected papers on civil rights policy-making (I asked them to argue for a policy change that would advance the cause of civil rights, so I got papers about prison reform, mandatory minimums, paid maternity leave, additional protections for transgendered people, etc… all very well written), went over the FRQ quiz they’d done last class, gave out some AP exam study materials, and let them have the rest of class to work on Policy Projects.

I admit that not a ton of work got done. Students were absent (it’s a group project), it’s the day before spring break, the looming exams are making us all a bit silly… But it’s all right. They did enough, and they’ll pick it up after break. 

I taught the same lesson in World as I did yesterday (the one good thing about the snow day on Monday is that it allowed us to end this week on the second day of our schedule rotation), and it went well. I didn’t have as many questions as yesterday, so the discussion wasn’t as rich initially- and I figured that would happen because these are my quieter two classes, and, again, it’s the day before break. In my Block 3, at least, though, the questions all came in the last ten minutes of class; I wrapped up the lesson, and hands went up, so… awesome. 

I spent my lunch supervising Mrs. T’s class so she could go to a meeting. A bunch of my activist students spent their lunches writing letters to Congress about gun violence- and encouraging others to do so- because it’s the anniversary of Columbine. They opted for that instead of another walk out, and I support their efforts.

Kids are gonna change the world. 

And now? Spring break!

Portsmouth, NH

Portsmouth, NH

Day One Hundred Eighteen

Whenever anyone asked me what I was going to do if students walked out of my class today, I said, “I’ll hold the door, then walk out with them." 

Doing so was one of the proudest moments of my career.

I thought it’d happen in the middle of World, so Mrs. T was going to supervise any students who didn’t walk since we’ve got the Cavern of Learning open, but school started on a two-hour delay because of the snow, so I was actually with my APUSGOV class. They all walked. 

Most of them had actually been part of planning the walk-out. They and other students worked with the administration to plan a 17-minute march, student speeches, a petition drive, and info session on registering to vote and writing their representatives. They also called for a “Walk Up,” as in walk up to 17 people and be kind. 

I can’t even tell you how incredible it was to listen to them speak. I know I’m not the only one of my colleagues who got emotional because they were so impassioned, honest, brilliant… A few of them went to Concord to meet to the governor this afternoon, others spoke to NHPR or other outlets. They want it to be clear that walking out wasn’t the end of the action; it’s the start. 

And change is coming.

I taught my classes, gave the same exhortation that I gave yesterday and so many other days- decide where you stand- and then I got ready to teach more about the world tomorrow. I spent the evening at winter sports awards, and got what is becoming a traditional (and awesome) coach’s gift: Thin Mints and flowers. So the ordinary things went on, and that might make some people think everyone will move on and forget about school shootings until the next one- it’s happened before, after all- but I don’t think so. 

Day One Hundred Thirteen

Today I explained the origins of ISIS to ninth graders because I’m a wizard and that’s what I do.

I had my students get into groups, and then I gave each group a series of cause and effect statements about ISIS’ genesis in Iraq. These statements had been cut up and shuffled, so each group had to figure out how to piece them together- matching cause to effect- and how to sort them chronologically.

It’s definitely a challenging task, so it was awesome to watch them tackle it. Students were on their feet, laying out the cause and effect statements all over the tables, talking to each other about what they were seeing. Last year, I lectured this lesson, but doing it this way worked way better for the students I have now. It was engaging and collaborative, and I’m feeling good about it.

I ended class by showing them the map of ISIS territory in 2014 so they could see what happened after ISIS came into being. There’s an editorial from that year that I’m having them read (because Mrs. T is teaching them how to write those at the moment) for homework; it’s about potential global responses to ISIS, so then we can get into what the actual global responses have been since it was written.

The Principal called an assembly during Block 3, which cut into my badass lesson, but it was about school safety, so it was very important. I wish we didn’t have to talk about what we do to prevent mass shootings, or what we do if our preventative measures fail, but we do. 

Day One Hundred Seven

Well. It’s the first day back from break, and a lot of us spent it talking about guns. I figured that’s how it was going to go for me. I teach government and world affairs, and I’m a known political organizer, so I get asked for my opinions about things all the time. And when I’m asked, I answer.

My students wanted to know what I thought about the protests being planned- and then they wanted to talk to each other about that, too, so I let them (carefully… emotions were running high). They also wanted to know what I thought about our school’s existing safety measures. One thing I told them was that, while I don’t like lockdown drills, I know they can be effective. My own high school was locked down during my senior year while a student who’d been planning to attack others was apprehended. There were weapons in the student’s locker, so it was for real. I don’t know how bad it could have been if the police hadn’t been tipped off- I don’t know how many weapons, what kind, etc…- but I remember thinking it would change things. 

I’m so sorry that students today have grown up thinking otherwise. 

I can’t imagine what this is like for them. 

It was interesting to juxtapose all that against my actual lesson, which was showing the documentary Promises (about kids in Israel and Palestine). Young people in different, violent situations… It was striking, to say the least. 

I’m due for a formal observation soon, so I had a pre-observation meeting with the Vice Principal. We ended up talking about guns, too; I went over how my convos had gone in class. She told me what’s going on in her office. And we both aired some thoughts about… everything. I was glad for the talk. 

I got back to my room with a bit of time to do my grading. I thought I had PD this afternoon, but Mrs. T let me know I had my dates wrong, so I found myself with a free afternoon. So I walked out with Mr. F and Mr. W, talking the whole way about- you guessed it- guns.

This is where we’re at. 

Photo

Photo

When did it become a teacher’s job to stop a b…

When did it become a teacher’s job to stop a bullet for your child?:

Teachers are not police officers or firemen or members of the military who are trained to deal with dangerous situations like this. We are people who are trained how to get people to think, so that is what I am doing. I’m not going anywhere anytime soon because I will always love my kids enough to want to be the one between them and a bullet, but this also wasn’t in the job description.

Day One Hundred Five

It was a somber morning at my school, as I’m sure it was at others, too. During our PLC meeting we talked about what we’d say in response to the shooting, and about how all our families- like students’ families- desperately want to hold us close every time this happens. I said (and also wrote on Twitter just a bit ago) that I feel for my mom and dad, who weren’t prepared to worry about their teacher daughter as much as their soldier son. It was good to have a bit of time to talk about that.

And then we went and faced our students. 

I had one boy in class who was really upset, which I was expecting. He expressed it by slamming everything he could (my door, a laptop, his binder, etc…) and calling it trash. I did my best to be totally calm in response, and that seemed to help deescalate him, but he did end up calling his mom to dismiss him. And, hey, if that’s what he needs, that’s what he needs. 

Meantime, class went on, as it must. 

I was trying out a new lesson using ProCon. I had students get in groups of their choosing (4 people max). Each group had to go on the site and take notes about a particular issue in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. After they did that, I regrouped them so each student in a group had notes about a different issue. They shared what they’d learned, and then I took the last five minutes of class to sum it up and link it to the next lesson, which will come after a week of vacation (stay tuned, kids…) 

I think it went well in both my classes, but it went REALLY well in my Block 3 class. They actually had bigger discussions than I’d expected them to have when they were sharing what they’d learned; they started talking about possible solutions to the issues, and voicing their own opinions about the conflict, and I just listened in gleefully. My Block 4 class wasn’t there yet, but that’s okay… Emphasis on the yet.

The best part of my day was Block 5. That’s my prep time, but today I spent it in Mr. I’s Holocaust & Genocide Studies class because he had a guest lecturer: Tom White from Keene State’s Cohen Center. And, longer ago than I care to admit, Mr. White was my AP Euro teacher. More than that, he was the best teacher I ever had.

He’s the reason I became a social studies teacher.

And, man, sitting in class while he taught was incredible. It took me back to all the mornings I spent in AP Euro- first block every other day of my senior year- and it reminded me how GOOD he is. It’s not easy to hold a class’ attention for 80 minutes, but Mr. I’s students were as spellbound and inspired by him as my classmates and I always were.

One of them, who was in World with me two years ago, told me she could tell I’d learned how to teach from him, which is the best compliment I’ve ever gotten. I’m not as good as he is, but I aspire to be that good. And so much of what I do as a teacher is me mimicking him… even more than I’m generally aware, I think.

It was awesome to see him, and to walk him to the doors of MY school- where I am because of him- after the bell. And awesome, too, to end a somber day with joy.

Day One Hundred Four

Today was kind of a quiet day. 

My APUSGOV students had a quiz, which they crushed, and then they worked on their Court Madness research for the remainder of class. I had to answer the occasional legal question, but they basically just rocked and rolled. 

My World students did, too. The lesson went even better today than yesterday, in fact. I was quite happy about that because these are the two sections of students that tend to struggle a bit more than the other two, but not with this. The one rough thing is that the flu, other viral crud, ski accidents, etc… are striking hard. I had double-digit absences today, which is rare.

But! There’s a vacation coming soon, so hopefully everyone will be able to rest and recover.

I don’t want to end this entry without mentioning that there’s a school community that lost 17 people today. It wasn’t mine. It shouldn’t be anyone’s. And I don’t have the words to explain how wrenching it is to face a generation of students who think this is just what happens.