_ “In nineteen minutes, you can mow the front lawn; color your hair; watch a third of a hockey game. In nineteen minutes, you can bake scones or get a tooth filled by a dentist; you can fold laundry for a family of five. In nineteen minutes, you can stop the world; or you can just jump off it.” Jodi Picoult, Nineteen Minutes
A few years ago some great teachers friends and I gathered to discuss Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult. We had been horrified by the various school shootings in the past years. We pondered together the outcast character and the victims. We felt like we knew these children. We had taught students like them. The school's responsibility was a topic of discussion. Who is to blame? Picoult, being so Picoult, leaves the reader to find his or her own answers as she weaves a tale, which gives everyone's viewpoint.
This week we have seen a similar situation play out. I have no clue of what happened in Ohio this week. However I was very upset the first media reports began by asking why the school had not check Facebook or been more aware. As often happens, the school is the first place people seek to place blame.
Schools are not able to solve all of society's issues. Children bring so many issues to school and the resources required to solve every issue is beyond any one organization's scope. Teachers are not trained to be counselors, mediators, police officers, emergency responders, or behavioral specialist, yet many are called upon to do such things. Thankfully, many do an amazing job, which is over and above the call of duty. Having worked with numerous students with serious emotional and behavioral disorders and some even accompanied with criminal convictions.
Honestly, helping these children has always been such a rewarding experience for me, however, I have lost more than I have won with these students as one hour a day in my class or eight hours in a great school often does not have enough impact to overcome the issues the child has. I have often been frustrated and on occasion fearful of what a child may do to me or to the other children in my class. Someone just pondered, “How dangerous can a child be?” Start searching the news. You may be surprised.
The rights of children with emotional and behavioral disorders outweighs the rights of all other children as demonstrated in a recent local case at where a student was a convicted rapist raped a student. Often there are indications there could be issues, but privacy laws and rights of the child prevent the school from doing much to prevent the issues. If the child has a diagnosis for special education, the complications are compounded.
Schools are not always privy to children's criminal records or mental records. Teachers teach all with often little information concerning the needs of the child or resources to assist. Imagine being in class with 25 kids, all with questions and smiling faces, and one child just keeps stabbing himself in the arm or trying to cut his wrists. The majority of teachers carry on, report the incidents, fill out the paperwork, meet with parents, set up IEP's, complete monitoring forms, call home, send notes to the counselors, counsel, hand out band-aids, move the other children to new desks, remove the sharp objects, and pray and then pray some more. They return to class the next day and begin again.
This week a tragedy happened. Three children lost their lives and their families lost their hearts. Another child lost his future and his family will forever be branded. The first comments about what the school may have not done to prevent the issue. Before people outside of schools begin to make comments about shootings or other situations in schools, understand that most teachers and school officials really care and try to help students. We do more than teach and grade papers. We listen to children cry about their mothers on drugs, we listen to them share how they are raising their siblings, we pay for their new clothes, we buy their tickets to the field trip, we make sure they have a new team t-shirt, we tutor them for free, we buy them books, and we work very hard. Unfortunately, there is little in the way of resources, services, or support to do more than what schools do. We have children in this country who are hungry for someone to love them and for someone to show them how to move from the situation they are in to a new place. We have children with sever emotional issues and no access to obtain consist care. We have parents who are trying and some who are worthless. Schools are part of the answer, but schools cannot be the only answer or the first place to find blame. Instead the media should look at all of the things schools have done to prevent possible
I am a teacher, which in a single word, sums up my passions and my belief in the future.