Like many Americans, especially parents, especially teachers, Dec. 14, 2012 is burned into my brain. I may have been too young (just) to remember where I was on Nov. 22, 1963, but I know exactly where I was 49 years and 22 days later - in the gym working scoreboard for our basketball tournament - and remember it as clearly as if it were yesterday. On that day, we learned with growing shock what had transpired at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a horrific mass shooting that began with the shooter’s mother and continued to result in the deaths of 20 children and six faculty/staff members before the shooter turned his gun on himself.
“We try. We will always try. And also? We all matter- all of our voices rising for school safety, better resources for schools and teacher and students, etc. will help .....” - Nelba Márquez-Greene, tweet dated July 2, 2018.
Nelba Márquez-Greene is the founder of the Ana Grace Project, one of a variety of foundations and charities set up by Sandy Hook parents following the tragedy. Her ongoing advocacy for safer and more inclusive schools, her willingness to be vulnerable, her resilience, and her relentless work to bring about positive change in the world have led me to view her as a role model in my own ongoing work along the same lines. So when the idea arose that we might do a Twitter chat together on gun violence, I knew working with her was an amazing opportunity, one which I hoped many dozens of people would seize. We settled on the hashtag #SavingLivesChat, and if you click on this link, you should be able to scroll back and view the chat if you’d like.
Founded in response to the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Sandy Hook Promise has worked with experts to develop four different in-school programs designed to help prevent gun violence. As summarized by Judith Coffey in a recent email to Sandy Hook Promise Leaders, they are:
I know we in the U.S. pride ourselves on our small town pride, but I still feel my town is extra special. When I tell people I live in Shelburne Falls, if they’re heard of it (and that’s more common than one might expect for a village of roughly 1700 people), they almost always tell me about an idyllic visit they once had to “such a beautiful town.” Though by no means as gifted a photographer as many of my friends and relations, I periodically post pictures of my home town, and they often draw a positive reaction.
It has been one month and one week to the day since the shooting at Sandy Hook, and still many of us are depressed and in shock. In quiet moments at holiday gatherings, online in virtual discussions on bulletin boards and through Twitter, many of my friends and family have shared that they felt subdued this year compared to in normal years. This is in no way meant to diminish, share, or hope to begin to understand the grief that parents and family members of those who died must be feeling; it is simply the truth of our reality.
Filed Under: Middle School, Martin Luther King Jr, Teaching, gender, Inauguration, Obama, discrimination, In the Classroom, sandy hook, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School
My shoulder grew progressively numb as my friend, convinced that everyone who claimed to be a pacifist had a breaking point, kept hitting it over and over. His face began to contort, and through gritted teeth he hissed, "I'm going to make you hit me." But I didn't hit back, and eventually he walked away in disgust. I've always wondered what he took away from the incident. Me, I took pride in having successfully maintained my principles of non-violence, though as it turned out I couldn't have moved my arm if I had wanted, and it hung uselessly at my side for at least five minutes as I walked to my next class and took my seat.
Annual discussions of whether making New Year's resolutions serves any purpose, and if so how best to make them, are by now as much a part of New Year's traditions as the resolutions themselves. But for those of us who teach, the chance to make mid-course adjustments is often irresistible. That tug may be especially strong in a year when many teachers report a more subdued holiday season than usual with the events of Sandy Hook so fresh in our minds.
Like most of the country, I spent most of the weekend feeling devastated and overwhelmed. I was fortunate in that our annual girls basketball tournament took up most of my time on Friday and Saturday and insulated me somewhat from the pain and anguish of thinking about the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Except between games. And during half-time. And during time-outs. And sometimes in between time-outs. There’s a comfortable and safe feeling in a gym anyway, especially at our school, and as a long-time fan of girls and women’s basketball, watching a level of aggressiveness and intensity, a quality of competition, and an evenness of talent I did not remember from some of our earlier tournaments did my heart good. But a dull ache was there and, sooner or later, I was going to have to face up to what had happened in Connecticut, as a teacher and as a parent.
A young teacher named Erin had written the MiddleTalk listserve run by the Association of Middle Level Education asking for advice on how to talk about the tragedy with our children and how best to support her students. My friend Rebecca Lawson had written back with an impressive list of resources from Fred Rogers’s video, soothing in its sensibility and sensitivity, to an article in the Washington Post. That seemed a good place to start, and I worked my way through the resources, periodically staring out into space before shaking my head and refocusing on my computer screen.