If you work in education you could not help but be profoundly affected by this. It affected the staff at my school on a very fundamental level. We went through additional Lock-down training last year. Training designed to increase our chances of survival if an armed intruder entered our building. When a mass murderer sets their mind, nothing will stop them. It's up to the staff in our building to protect our students. Armed guards, gun legislation, mental illness awareness; these are the things that make everyone else feel better. We know we are ready if the unfathomable actually happens.
When I was able to bring up this empowered perspective and was able to address how all the changes everyone wants will come from this generation of school children, I made a lot of people very angry.
As an artist, this is my cue that I am right on the mark and have something to say, that needs to be heard whether you want to hear it or not...
The Tuesday, following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown Connecticut, I was still reeling emotionally. Those weren't faceless people that died, those were my coworkers and my students. You can't help but put yourself there, because it might as well be you. You know those victims did exactly what you would have done. The staff I work with went through extra training last year, designed around dealing with an armed intruder. Extra training beyond traditional lock-down procedures, called A.L.I.C.E. It all came back to me as I knew we would kick ass if ever put in that horrible situation.
Then, some of my students, very inquisitive sixth to ninth graders, asked me what I would do if someone came in the building. I said, as I had been instructed the day before, "You are safe here. All of the doors are locked and you have to be buzzed in the front door."
They then reminded me that the shooter in Newtown shot his way in through the front door. I responded, "The staff here has had special training to deal with that. Special training beyond turning off the lights, locking the door and hiding in the closet."
This was not good enough for them. They wanted to know what I would do if a shooter made it into the building. I then said "I would listen for instructions and get you out of the building." (I did not tell them this, but the instructions would come from the office telling me where the shooter is, or, if, God forbid, no one could make it to the intercom, I'd listen for where the gun shots were coming from.)
"What if we couldn't get out?"
"Then I would lower you out the window."
"I could break my ankle!"
"Yes you could, and your classmates would help you get to the meeting spot."
"What if we couldn't get out?"
"We've been trained on how to keep a shooter out. We would lock the door, tie a rope or extension chord around the door knob, and as a class, we would barricade the door with everything we could."
Then, the inevitable question came up.
"What if the shooter made it into our room?"
One of my smallest students (a very hyper active eighth grader) picked up a metal lunch tray almost as big as he was (we bring their lunches to the classroom) and said "I'd pick up this tray and smack that guy!".
"Exactly!" I said. "That's exactly what you should do. Hit him as hard as you can. (We were assuming, at this point, that our shooter would be a man.) You wouldn't stand still, you'd run around the room and throw stuff at him. Anything you can get your hands on. We'd try to get the gun from him, as a class, and we would subdue him and secure the gun, as a class."
After I said this, they were visibly more relaxed. Ironic, isn't it?
Later I thought about my original plans last year to leave this job. If I had left, then the aide sitting at that desk would not have had A.L.I.C.E. training and would not have been able to answer their questions. The last few years of my life, were falling into place. I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
I've never felt so empowered, and when I got home, I'd never felt so heart broken. All of our children have lost a level of innocence, forever. Our children and our future children will be taught to be little, warriors of their own Selves. I am just as amazed as I am grief stricken. It's not a bad thing. It's just too bad that this is how it has to be. We can no longer sustain the innocence of our children beyond school age.
Many of my students already don't feel safe, due to abuse, and when I remembered that some of them really did believe that the Apocalypse would end the world on Friday, the 21st of December, I suddenly realized why I was coming home mentally exhausted every day. That's the kind of stuff we don't want them to deal with.
But, at some point, we are exposed to the evil and dangers of the world. Why not shift the collective consciousness and get it out of the way when you're young, like chicken pox? Why not go through that crazy head trip we all go through at some point in our lives, earlier? Why not really grasp how fragile it all is, earlier? Why not go through this when you're young and when you hopefully feel safe in other ways because of your parents, guardians, teachers, clergy, etc? People there to answer your questions and help you feel secure while you process it.
Why not learn to truly engage in each day and be grateful for what you have, when you're young? Why not learn to take leaps and to never stop, when you're young? Why not learn not to take anything for granted, when you're young? Why not have a perspective that will lead to living the fullest life possible, when you're young?
By Friday, I was emotionally and mentally spent. I could tell my coworkers were ready for some time away, too. Some of our students did a candle light vigil for Sandy Hook, during our Holiday luncheon. The counselor that leads their group couldn't even get through the introduction they had written. She could not control her body's reaction to what she was reading as her throat locked up and she held back tears. At one point, she even started laughing in disbelief. Our principal took over and while the students lit each others candles, a beautiful song about peace and ending violence played as another staff member read off the names of those who died, followed by one minute of silence.
I managed to hold my tears. Lots of deep breaths. But, let's just say, my first few days of holiday break were pretty much spent, unapologetically sleeping, crying and creating.
And if you're interested in arguing with me about the shift of consciousness within our school children, let me share a comment to the above Facebook post that my friend left.
"My son gave my daughter a big kiss on the cheek this morning before they left for school. She said, 'Yuck! What was that for?' 'That's in case one of us doesn't make it home today.' Broke my heart."
Heartbreaking :: Empowering :: Life Changing