Week 18: Keeping School Safe

This afternoon, I sat at the back table of my classroom and checked my email while my students finished a test. I knew nothing about what happened in Connecticut, always late to know, most of my day disconnected from the internet. Another teacher wrote an email suggesting we might do something to reach out to Sandy Hook Elementary School…

I had no idea what he was talking about.

Reading the CNN updates as my students concentrated on parts of speech, my eyes filled with tears. The world is filled with so many horrors, but nothing is quite as horrific as violence toward children. I don’t know if it is because I am a teacher or because I was in a room full of kids, but this story shook me more than any other in my life.

It breaks my heart to think there is one more thing for my students to fear. Life outside of school is already scary enough. I will never forget my residency year when a student told the class about how his grandfather was gunned down in his front yard. Half the room had something similar to share. I was shocked.

Anxiety rooted in real life trauma is common for many of the children I serve. I am often thankful that at least my kids can feel safe at school. I tell them that everything else stays outside. “You are safe,” I say. Those are the only words I have to offer and I mean them.

Now I fear many of my students will hear this story and be afraid at school, too. Threats of violence are not uncommon. We go through the motions of threat assessments, psychological evaluations, and lockdown drills, but I downplay the likelihood of violence occurring. It’s all I can do to keep my sanity.

This story hit too close.

I grieve for the families and students robbed of life. I grieve for our country. I grieve for fear.

School should be a sacred space, the place that everything else in our world is kept at bay, where kids feel safe. I’m going to do everything in my power to keep it this way, even if it means not saying anything to my students because I don’t want to give them something new to fear. I now get why parents sometimes choose to shelter their children, the world is a hard place and kids deserve a space to feel safe.

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8 thoughts on “Week 18: Keeping School Safe

  1. Well said and totally understand everything you’re feeling. (((((hugs))))))

  2. kingmidget says:

    Struggling with what to say. On some level, I’ve become desensitized to this. It happens just too many times. Again? Well, there’s a surprise. But, then I think of the 20 kids and it rips a hole in me. One of my thoughts today was exactly like yours … think of all the kids who will be terrified of going to school now. It’s just … beyond words … that there really is no safe place. Madness can strike at any time in any place. How does one deal with that?
    I hope you find a way to file this away, stay vigilant, and keep your students safe.

    • oliviaobryon says:

      I struggled with what to say, too. I feel like it is an assault on humanity, not just one group of people. In general, I am also pretty desensitized, but this one took place in the same work environment I share each day with kids whose faces and stories I can imagine. It just makes me really angry that anyone is capable of being so evil.

    • oliviaobryon says:

      PS. One of the questions that arose yesterday at my school was whether or not to share this with the students. I felt no because I did not want to scare them more than they’re already afraid and I wanted to leave it to their families to decide whether or not to tell them about this, (and, I also don’t like putting the connection between shooting/violence and school in their brains…). I wanted to write about that but somehow didn’t… Funny how we sometimes miss our own points.

  3. Reblogged this on 21stcenturyrenaissancegirl and commented:
    Once again, well said.

  4. I hope your students come back touched but not broken today. You said it very well, school should be safe. That line between protection and sheltering is so fine. Just be their safe space, their constant. Life is plenty scary and real out there.

    • oliviaobryon says:

      Thank you. They seemed okay. One little girl was really scared and had to go see the school psychologist, but just one, thankfully… I invited them to open up privately but requested that they allow adults to share information with students that didn’t know… I want to respect whatever their families chose to share. I think they more or less respected that request 😉

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