On Wednesday, my district, along with several other districts in the state, cancelled school. Not for a snow storm or other weather-related issue, but because of the threat of school violence.
It's hard to describe my thoughts and feelings about that. I'm grateful to everyone who keeps us safe, and I'm grateful that the decision was made to put safety first. But I'm also sad and mad that this is our reality. That a threat of violence can shut down the schools of an entire metro area, because we can't risk sending our kids to school.
It COULD happen here. It is happening here.
It also makes me remember an incident of school violence I experienced a few years ago. It wasn't a shooting, nobody died, and it quickly faded from the news. But something like this brings back the details, sharp and clear in my mind. The shoes I was wearing. The calmness that blanketed me during the day, as we took care of all of the kiddos in the school, and the shock that came later, after they were all home with their parents. The realization that it could happen anywhere, anytime. And the decision that, even knowing that there is never a 100% guarantee of safety, I don't want to live in fear.
"As teachers, we are so wired to take care of the kids. Don't be surprised if this hits you harder weeks or months down the road. It's normal."
That quote above, from a principal at another school, was some of the best advice I received when it happened. She was right - that was my experience. I'm just dropping her words here in case somebody else needs to hear it.
Back to the present: returning to work on Thursday, after they found the person who was making these threats, was weird. Everything just felt off. They found her dead, an apparent suicide. I was glad that the threat was over, but can you ever really rejoice in someone else's death? Especially an 18-year-old girl who clearly had a lot going on?
I'm not really sure where I am going with this post, other than putting my thoughts out there, but I do want to end with a few takeaways I am thinking about:
- Watch out for each other. We are built for relationships & connection, and it makes a big difference in life.
- Reach out. I was so grateful for a friend who texted me, following the school closure, to share her experience (she was also at the school I was at when the incident happened a few years ago). We had a good little texting conversation about some of what we remember and how it changes how we process/experience events like the one that happened this week.
- Be real. Don't pretend nothing is happening. Acknowledge it with your kids (in an age-appropriate way), your co-workers, and parents who are around. We are all feeling it, and hiding it makes things even worse.
- Live life. Don't let fear take over. We can't control everything (nor should we). So don't get caught up in trying to be in control. Just live!
- Finally, if you ever find yourself in a situation like this and want/need to talk, please know that I'm willing. It's such a taboo subject in our culture, but holding it in can make it even worse! So whether we've met IRL or are PLN friends, know that you are not alone <3.