WILL ENOUGH EVER BE ENOUGH?

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Last night, as I drove my 7-year-old home from Jiu-Jitsu class, a voice came from the back seat: “Why did that kid want to shoot those other kids?”

“Huh?” It took me a minute to realize what he was talking about.

“That kid who shot all those other kids,” he repeated.

“I don’t know, Gaga,” I responded, referring to him by his childhood nickname that I hope he never outgrows.

“Is he not telling the police why? Is he lying to them?” he plunged on.

“I think he’s telling them the truth. People do things for a lot of reasons. A lot of people are broken. Their minds don’t work the way they should.” I answered, struggling for the right words.

“Does my mind work right?” he asked, searching for understanding.

“It seems to,” I replied, “But your mother and I are constantly working to make sure that it continues to develop right. Other kids are exposed to things that prevent that from happening. Bad things happen to people and it leads to them doing bad things. It’s hard to understand.”

There was quiet for a few minutes, and then, “If I type it in on my iPad, will I be able to see it?”

“It will probably call up news stories and maybe some actual footage. Why do you want to see it?”

“I don’t know. Maybe to help the police to see something they missed.”

“I think they pretty much have it covered, Gaga.”

“My friend said he wants to bring a gun to school for protection.”

“You know better, right? You know you can’t even joke about that kind of thing?”

“I know. He wouldn’t do it. But we don’t want to get hurt.”

He then turned and looked out the window for the short ride home. Inside my heart was breaking and my mind was swirling. How could I possibly protect him, both physically and mentally?

Some of you may argue that this is the new norm. I refuse to accept that. This country is made up of way too many good people to concede to a culture of fear. Because let’s face it, fear is what is at the heart of this whole argument. Fear that someone will come take what is yours. Fear that you will be injured by a fellow human being. Fear that a loved one will be hurt. Fear that you will be oppressed by the government.

It wasn’t that long ago that you could stroll up to an airport minutes before a flight and hop right on board. There were no security checks. There was no fear. Airlines said things like “Fly the friendly skies.” Then 9/11 happened, and we allowed fear to take away freedom. Nobody is saying fly the friendly skies today.

Our courthouses and other government buildings soon emulated our airports. Now we want to make schools and churches emulate government buildings and airports with metal detectors and armed guards. What do you see when you come to a metal detector? What do you see when you walk up to an armed guard? I see fear.

The sight of an armed guard or a metal detector sends a signal to my brain that I am entering a danger zone. A place where somebody might want to cause me bodily harm. Is that the message I want to receive upon entering a sanctuary? Is that the message I want my children to receive when they go to a place that is supposed to function like a second home?

We forget that schools are not just about reading, writing, and arithmetic. I don’t expect my kids’ teachers to function as surrogate parents, but I do expect them to help open their eyes to the wonders of the world. We need to understand that like it or not, schools and the environment they foster get translated into a definition of our society. As those children exit school and enter the adult world, they take with them outlooks and philosophies shaped by their K-12 experiences. It’s one of the reasons schools were started in the first place. So we need to constantly ask ourselves, is my kid’s school creating an environment I’d like to see replicated in society?

I can be critical of Social Emotional Learning policies, but I will tell you this, I would prefer my children live in a world more heavily invested in prayer circles than metal detectors. I’d much rather my child spend more time getting in touch with their feelings than watching a teacher remove a gun from her purse in order to lock it up in her desk. If we send children to a place everyday where the notion of fear is reinforced through so-called security measures, that is the society we will get. Kids will reach adulthood with fear and distrust deeply ingrained in them. That fact alone makes me more open to SEL policies than any other consideration. I may not be comfortable with all of it, but I’m damn sure more comfortable with SEL than the alternative.

Of course this makes SEL instruction so important that we can’t afford not to get it right. We can’t dabble around in it and underfund it. We can’t be afraid to make some people feel uncomfortable. There is too much riding on successful implementation and integration.

When I was a kid, if I wanted to participate in an activity, I needed to convince my parents that I could conduct myself in a safe manner while engaging in said activity. I didn’t receive my own hunting rifle until after I’d spent a season accompanying my father with just a BB gun. I wasn’t allowed to drive by myself until I convinced them that I understood the rules and responsibilities of the road. The Second Amendment may give citizens the right to bear arms, but it doesn’t give them the right to do so unencumbered by reasonable regulations. For this reason, I put much of the onus in solving gun issues on the shoulders of gun owners.

I don’t understand why gun owners would refuse a few simple measures that would protect their right to own guns while helping keep others safe. Policies that would closely resemble restrictions on automobiles – registry of gun owners, required liability insurance, you can’t own guns if convicted of domestic violence. Why can’t we ban the AR-15? Even if it’s just symbolic, the symbolism is that we value life over a tool. Will it change anything? I don’t know. But I do know not changing anything won’t change a thing.

You parents of multiple children are probably well versed in this scenario. Two of the children are engaged in endless squabbling over an item. At first you try to referee and create stipulations that result in peace. But it doesn’t create the peace you envision, so you finally utter the ultimatum, “That does it. If you two can’t get along, then I’m just taking it away!”

Initially, there is some grumbling. Some pouting. Some disparaging remarks directed towards the parent. But eventually, the kids move on. Often they find a toy or object that they can enjoy together. Maybe they just go to their separate corners. Or maybe they find another item to squabble over. But if they choose this route, they know what the consequences will be, so things seldom go nuclear. Maybe that’s where we are in the gun debate.

All I know is that I refuse to accept that my children will inherit a world filled with fear. When they were born, I told their mother I only wanted two things for them: To develop the ability to tell a story, and to not be afraid of life. And I’ll do whatever I can to make that a reality. Conversations like last night will not become the new norm in the Weber household. For this family, enough is enough.

QUICK HITS

Riddle me this. May 1st is a scheduled MNPS school day. May 1st is also the day scheduled for voting in the county primary and on the transportation plan. Many schools also serve as polling places. How’s all this going to work out?

TMZ moment: Apparently things got a little heated after Friday’s Whites Creek vs. Stratford basketball game. An overzealous fan followed the coach into the locker room and was promptly made aware that he wasn’t welcome with a fist to the face. I’m not casting blame towards anyone, but is this acceptable to anyone?

In checking out one story this week, I heard another that was equally disturbing. Apparently in some of our high schools, it’s common practice for students to try to video tape teachers and then use the video to discredit them. Often times the video is used to enlist parents in the complaints. The teacher is left virtually defenseless. As if the job wasn’t hard enough.

Raise your hand if you knew there was the potential for some MNPS students to take the MAP tests four times this year? Remember when we had that election a couple of years ago and parents spoke out about their concerns with over testing? Yea… good times.

Here’s another quandary: the district moved up MAP testing this year because of potential test fatigue. So what we are saying essentially is we are going to measure you in February because those scores are more favorable to us and act like the last 3 months of school don’t exist. It’s like you are trying to qualify for a race, and I say I’m going to time you now because the next three months of training will have a detrimental effect on your time. Huh?

I’ve been meaning to write for months about the issues with the HR department and the hiring of teachers. Right now, if you go to the employment page you’ll see that there are over 150 jobs open. Well, I think there are 150 jobs open, but who really knows?  Some of the listings are from as far back as September of last year. Maplewood HS has a job posted May 31, 2017. Is that job still open? There was a job fair this past weekend. Raise your hand if you were aware of it. Now raise your hand if you received timely information on it.

Response times from HR to applicants are extremely slow. I’ve heard from people who didn’t hear anything for weeks after applying. Others only got emailed responses after they’d made several phone calls. It’s almost like people were lined up around the block to work at MNPS, but they’re not. There is no other way to put this: HR needs to pick up their game and they need to do it now. We can’t afford to let quality candidates slip away because of disorganization.

Don’t miss Kwame Alexander on Wednesday February 21st at Parnassus Books.

Antioch Middle Prep parents, mark your calendar for Parenting with Purpose on Saturday, March 3, from 9 am-12 pm at Cane Ridge High School. Learn how parents can support middle and high school students. Sessions include Drug Awareness, Social Media, College Access, and Middle/High/College transition. More info soon!

Rae Shawn Sanchez challenging Rep. Glen Casada for Republican primary is my favorite story of the day on so many levels.

When we consider school safety training, is anybody thinking about our substitute teachers? Not according to a comment left on a recent Dad Gone Wild blog post:

I have no keys to even use your restrooms let alone secure doors. I have children who will not listen to me or treat me with a modicum of respect and dignity so how I am to get them to comply in an urgent situation is unclear. Then we have a multitude of schools that a mini mall is smaller and each with their own protocol and system. When or how am I to learn what that is? I have never received a response from the head of Substitute services from an email sent over a month ago. So please tell me that for subs who work both for MNPS and the outsourcing agency ESS how we are to be trained? Oh wait that would require them to pay us. Gee over 500 subs are in schools on a given day. Think about their role in securing students safety. Safe seems to be a noun, verb and adjective here and I see Police in every school.

As I write this, I am listening to Miles Davis’ Sketches Of Spain. A beautiful record.

Why do some children succeed while others fail? The story we usually tell about childhood and success is the one about intelligence: success comes to those who score highest on tests, from preschool admissions to SATs. But in How Children Succeed, Paul Tough argues that the qualities that matter more have to do with character: skills like perseverance, curiosity, optimism, and self-control.

Make sure you read the latest Russ on Reading: When Readers Struggle: Reading Comprehension, Part 3, Talking and Writing After Reading.

The next Overton Cluster PAC meeting is scheduled for March 5 at 6pm at Oliver Middle Prep. All are welcome, and we’ve been promised lots of swag.

POLL RESULTS

Great response to poll questions this week. Let’s review the results.

The first question asked how you felt about armed officers in every school. Many of you thought that was already taking place with SRO’s in every school. They are in every school except for elementary schools. I received a lot of positive feedback on their role in schools beyond being armed. There was no shortage of praise for those officers who got to know students and often anticipated problems before they arose.

Poll results showed that 38% of you voiced displeasure with the idea but recognized the need. Additionally, 31% of you felt like it needed to be expanded immediately.

Here are the write-in votes:

what’s the problem? had one when I graduated high school in 1999 1
Absolutely but is Nashville willing to fund it 1
Isn’t that what SRO (school resource officers) already do? 1
We have that in high schools 1
Unfortunately, we can’t control the crazy alone! We need more protection! 1
I thought every school had an SRO. 1
Already have SROs 1
Some of the larger schools need 2 or 3 1
I thought we had them already 1
Should be a last resort. After we’ve tried more proactive steps to reduce violence

The second question asked how teachers felt about being armed. This proposal always makes me shake my head. Police officers train endlessly in order for instinct to take over in the case of an incident. Yet, we seem to picture teachers, sans extensive training, ripping out guns, sliding across the desk like Hutch with his Gran Torino, and mowing down bad guys with pinpoint accuracy in the event of an emergency. The reality is much more complex and you guys recognize that.

Thirty-two percent of you thought it was the stupidest idea ever and 21% vowed to leave the profession before packing. Only 6% of you thought it would make class safer. Here are the write-in votes:

I do not want to be liable for a kid getting a hold of my gun. 1
Betsy Devos said we need guns for Grizzly bears, but what protects us from her? 1
I’m a former teacher – but no way would I arm myself. Anywhere.

Last question was in response to my announcement to run for school board. I thank you for the love. Eighty-one percent of you gave positive support. One of you responded, “Who cares.” I wonder if that was from… oh never mind. Hopefully today’s post reassured you that some things aren’t going to change and the blog ain’t going nowhere. Here are the write-in votes:

Citizens need to step up. Good luck to you! 1
Bring it. Door knocking and hand shaking, every vote matters 1
Go, TC, go!!! I will help run your campaign!!! 1
More concerned about DGW forum and lowdown on MNPS. Happy for you though. 1
I’ll be sad to see the blog go 1
good luck!

That’s it for now. If you need to contact me, you can do so at Norinrad10@yahoo.com. I try to promote as many of the things sent to me as possible, but I do apologize if I fall short. I have started using Patreon. If you think what I do has monetary value, you can go there and make a donation/pledge. Trust me, I know I ain’t going to get rich, but at the end of the day I’m just a Dad trying to get by. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page as well. I need you to like that Facebook page.

 

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One comment on “WILL ENOUGH EVER BE ENOUGH?

  1. […] notes on gun violence and schools from a recent post by Nashville education blogger and possible School Board candidate TC […]

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