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How Long? Addressing School Shootings

Anguish (noun): An almost unbearable and traumatic swirl of chock, incredulity, grief and powerlessness.
-- Brené Brown, Atlas of the Heart

I have two children, one eight and the other just over a year old. On Tuesday I sent them to school not fearing for their safety. Not to mention I am a teacher, going to a different school, under the illusion that I too was safe. My kids came home yesterday, there are parents in Texas who cannot say the same thing. I came home to my family after teaching my students. There are two teachers in Texas who did not come home from their schools. The word ‘anguish’ kept swirling in my mind, an all-to perfect descriptor for what those parents and loved ones must be feeling in a tragedy that is all too common in the US.

To all the teachers who stood in front of students wondering what to say, I applaud you simply for getting up this morning and making it to school. If you went the extra mile to discuss the tragedy in Uvalde, you are all the more courageous. The last few years have presented a number of threats to how exactly educators must preform their jobs; what perspectives they can include when discussing our nation’s history, how to police transgendered students on which bathrooms they can use, how long and what style of hair students of color can wear when they step on campus. To be a teacher in today’s world is daunting and scary. And yet, when teachers lean into difficult conversations, showing students how to practice empathy, students are given the tools to change our world for the better.

The chorus of “thoughts and prayers” has already begun throughout social media and it happens every time another child dies in a classroom or a loved one doesn’t come back from the supermarket. And yet, meaningful gun legislation fails in legislatures across our country. In Texas this fall,16 bills in the state legislature were passed to EXPAND gun rights, ranging from not requiring gun owners to have a license or background check to carry a hand gun (HB 1927) to prohibiting state agencies from enforcing any future federal gun laws (HB 2622). Nowhere else in the world do school shootings happen with the frequency and severity that they do in the United States and as an educator and parent, I know that this will only continue to grow until meaningful change in the form of gun legislation takes place.

At Design for Change our whole purpose is to give students and teachers the tools to deepen in empathy and design projects which create real meaningful change in our world. This generation of students will one day hold elected positions, teach in classrooms of their own and watch as their own children get on a school bus. Will they continue to mourn as we have? Will they know the anguish of waiting in a community center for hours wondering if their child was shot? Will they continue to call their spouse receiving no answer wondering if they made it out of the supermarket? My hope is that they will be the generation that transforms our country’s relationship with guns, but as long as those future teachers, principals, mayors and senators continue to be executed in their third and fourth grade classrooms, we won’t get there.

Teachers, keep having those difficult conversations. Be there with your students as their identity and culture is attacked. Our students need your empathy, your patience, your hope for a better future to keep them going, to inspire them to make change. Today was filled with anguish and grief. Don’t rush yourself or your students through those emotions, instead sit with them, with your students as they feel those emotions, and show them that even anguish can one day be a catalyst for change.


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