Like many of my colleagues, I watched in horror as a mentally unstable 19-year-old walked into a Florida high school opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle, an AR-15. By the time he left the building, hiding in plain sight with fleeing students and teachers, 17 people were fatally wounded.
Now, one week later, like most teachers in this country, I am struggling to make sense of the events and struggling to find a way to help my students understand what happened. More than anything, I’d like to assure them that something will be done to minimize the chances of events like this happening again. I don’t know what to say to them.
Before anyone jumps to any conclusions or attempts to say that my comments or ideas are stereotypical of a teacher because I work in a school, often a bastion for progressive ideals, let me state that I believe in a person’s right to defend themselves and their families. I have served in the military, my son has served in the military, and I spent nearly four years interviewing and writing about veterans and veteran’s causes. I am not an expert on public policy, I am simply a proud U.S. citizen who understands what it means to protect and defend our country’s founding principles. I am a teacher and a writer.
Having said all of that, I do believe that buying a weapon, especially an assault-style weapon should be difficult, perhaps even one of the most difficult things a citizen could do. But that’s not why I decided to write this.
As I was reading the stories from Florida, and watching as teachers, parents, and students were struggling in the aftermath of the shooting, I wanted to talk to my students. I wanted to hear from them and listen to their perspective. I didn’t have to wait for long.
We often begin each class (I teach AP English and AP Computer Science to juniors and seniors) with a discussion about the news of the day. This past Thursday, that took longer than usual and the students seemed frustrated and angry, and to a certain degree, fearful. We discussed the plans we have at school in case of an active shooter and I talked with them about the training teachers go through to make the classrooms secure. To be honest, that didn’t seem to help, and this information seemed to do little to convince the students they would continue to be safe in our classroom.
For a lot of reasons, I was happy that our February vacation started this past Monday, but as you may have guessed, my students and I continue to write about the aftermath caused by the shooting in Florida. One of my students sent me some information yesterday about their plan to join with students and teachers across the country and walk out of school on March 14, 2018, at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes, one minute for each life lost.
Personally, I couldn’t be prouder of the students. Call me naive, but their hope is that school will once again become a safe haven where students will come to improve their lives. From my understanding, they are not making a statement against our school or any other particular school, just the opposite. To me, the walk-out reinforces their shared belief that schools are an important part of their life, a place worth defending
The students realize something has to happen, things have to change and 17 seconds away from the classroom is a small price pay for raising this issue and getting adults to act like adults and try to collectively solve this problem.
I am not suggesting that I have the answer, but I am vehemently trying to state that I want to help them find an answer, an answer that keeps our classrooms safe and ends this crazy cycle of violence. As we have said more than once, “you’re either part of the problem or part of the solution.” I know what side I’d like to be on.
Stay tuned – as always, I’ll write about it.
Thanks again for reading my stories and as always, you may purchase my novel, Homecoming: A Soldier’s Story of Loyalty, Courage, and Redemption at your local, independent bookstore or online: DavidArenstam.com, BrysonTaylorPublishing.com, or Amazon.com
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