But, I Hope …

I saw this article today. It made me sad in so many ways … I could fill my blog for years discussing this topic. The writer, a special-ed teacher, explained, in no uncertain terms, that should there be a shooter at her school, she would not die for the children in her class as she did not want to die herself. She wants to go home to her own kids. She wants to be there for her family, her parents, her siblings. She wants to live. I mean, really, who doesn’t? She discussed at length how much she puts herself out for the kids in her care, how she worries over them, guides them, helps them … basically everything any good teacher does, that, to her, seems award worthy (okay, she didn’t say that, it was just my take on her tone).

However, when it comes down to it – when called upon to protect her charges, she would be hiding in the supply closet (her class’ go-to place in an active shooter event). Oh, not to keep the children who were lucky enough to make it in there with her safe, but to keep herself safe. She ended the article with a curt “I won’t save your child.” I have no doubt whatsoever that she means it.

I’m not a teacher. I don’t have to participate in active shooter drills or instruct a room full of kids on what to do in a life-threatening emergency. Ex-husbands and creepers aside, I’ve never experienced anything more threatening than a crowd-filled fight and being trapped in the perimeter … squashed in like cattle – no guns involved.

But.

I hope … I would sincerely hope … that if I were thrown into a sadly-not-so-unthinkable scenario, that I would do what I could to protect the children around me. Yes, I want to come home to my kids and my family … hell, I just want to come home to my dog. I have people who love me and count on me and I think, need me. Not counting those in my familial circle who would like to see me stick around, in a purely selfish sense, I do not want to die.

But.

I hope my ever-present compassion would come to the fore. I can’t imagine being in a situation where children are at risk of dying and not helping in any way that I could. I’m only human. Maybe if the time came, I would choke. I don’t know. I’ve never been called upon to do anything at all of greatness.

But.

I hope I could make a difference in this world. In my heart of hearts, I have faith that I would rise to the occasion and save a child whose life hasn’t even yet begun, whether they are mine or not, whether I know them or not.

Personally, the idea of slamming a door shut in the face of a child to save myself, not to mention a child that I see every freakin’ day … a child that I taught to read, a child whose shoes I tied, a child whose future I helped mold, is abhorrent to me. Oh, I can’t say as I completely blame this teacher for her way of thinking (I mean, I do, but still …). After all, she is living with the very real prospect of death every day, given our current climate of school shootings. So, it’s easy for me to say what I would and wouldn’t do as I go back and forth to my relatively safe job.

But.

I hope I would do the right thing. My intentions are there. Of course, we all know what road the best of intentions pave. It’s easy to say that I would jump out in front of a bus – or a bullet – to save anyone, let alone a child. However, when it came right down to it … would I make that leap? It goes without saying that if it were MY kids, that leap of faith would be as natural as breathing.

But.

I hope that when faced with an impossible decision in a horrific situation where kids were in danger, that I would make my own children proud … that I could face my death – or life – with the knowledge that I not just aspired to greatness, but truly achieved some small semblance of it through the life of a child.

I just know that when push came to shove, if I were the one coming out the other side … at the cost of a young life I, myself, could have saved and deliberately chose not to … well, I’m not sure there would ever be light or joy in my own life again. It’s certainly not a life I would want to live.

A Boy Named Ian

When my daughter was in the 5th grade, I received one of the “dreaded” calls from the office notifying me that she had done something horrific enough to earn a referral to the office. Now normally Sarah’s referrals to the office at this age were “M & M phone calls” which students enjoyed and Sarah normally racked up week after week.   Students would receive these positive referrals for things like going out of their way to help another student or teacher, taking initiative in class, getting caught being polite (holding doors for others, etc.) and the like.

However, on this dark day, she was sitting in the office for a more sinister reason: standing up for herself. I know, right?  How dare she!? Well. You guys know me well. You can imagine my response.  But I’m jumping ahead. Let me tell you what prompted the referral.

In my daughter’s elementary school, the students would leave their main classroom to attend Art (or Music) and then return to the main classroom again. In a state of flux, the class would stand out in the hall in a line for a long period of minutes (who knows why, though I think it was simply to test the students to see just how long they could stand still and whoever thought that was a good idea was a complete idiot).  Well, during this period of flux one day, Sarah and her friend were being harassed by a boy named Ian. Great name. Not so great a boy. He kept knocking their books and folders out of their hands and hitting them each in turn with a pencil. Now I don’t know about you all, but I’ve been cracked on my knuckles and my hands with items and it hurts like hell. Not to mention the annoyance of having to pick up your things one too many times to the amusement of the bully harassing you.

Well, I imagine for my daughter and her friend this little game of Ian’s got old and quick. Now my daughter’s friend, being more soft-spoken than my daughter, didn’t voice her dismay over the treatment. My daughter on the other hand had no qualms about speaking up. And she gave fair warning to Ian to stop or face the consequences. Ian, being brave or stupid, pressed his luck one last time and that was…as they say…all she wrote. My daughter snatched the pencil and stabbed him in the leg with it. Oh, not enough to even break the skin (so poking would be more accurate, but stab is what they put on the referral, so stab it was), but it was enough to startle him and make him cry and therefore embarrass him in front of his friends and the other kids.  And, since this big, strapping boy (much larger than my daughter) was embarrassed, by a girl no less, he told on her.

So. A referral was given, to both of them actually. I was a little surprised to tell you the truth. I figured it would just be Sarah since the boy claimed innocence (which he continued to do in the office) and Sarah readily admitted what she had done. And since our school system makes complete sense, they sent them both together, unsupervised, down the hall to the office which was on the other side of the building. What could go wrong there, right? They made it alive, another surprise.  I was told later, that on the long trek to the office Ian informed my daughter he no longer liked her (lo and behold the real reason for the harassment!), and that she hadn’t hurt him, he only wanted her to get into trouble for it.  To which she informed him, “Yeah, I guess that’s why you were crying then.”  My girl.

My response? Certainly not one the office staff was happy to hear. But it was the same one it has always been and always will be for my children. If someone touches you, you defend yourself. Period.

The ironic thing about it all?  Upon return to the classroom, Sarah was named Student of the Month and received a prize.  My girl.

advice for daughters

The Locked Door

Like many of us, my daughter suffers from anxiety. Being a teenager there’s what seems like a never-ending list of reasons why her mind could be thrown into a tizzy. Her main source of anxiety comes from school. No, it’s not the academic workload or fretting about standardized tests that hammer home the fear that how you perform will shape your future. She’s an Honor Roll student who excels in the classroom. What she finds stressful are the crowds, the thronging mass of other teens jostling and ricocheting off of each other in the hallways. It’s an everyday, unavoidable occurrence between each period (unless they build her a network of secret underground tunnels, which I don’t think is quite in the school’s budget). Not to mention the annoyance of sharing classroom after classroom with kids who basically do not want to be there and who do not share the same tolerant mindset she has for her fellow human beings.

Well, her anxiety recently got worse due to a safety precaution her school is now taking, or rather, a teacher’s explanation of it. The semesters changed over this past month so classes and teachers also changed. On the first day, a new teacher of one particular class explained that she keeps one of the two doors to her classroom locked because they are the first classroom in the hall and if a madman with an Uzi comes into the school guns blazing, it will be more difficult for him to come busting in their room, spraying rounds. Now I’m all for keeping kids safe. That I have no problem with. I question the teacher’s sense in explaining the reasons behind the locked door, but apparently she felt the kids were old enough to take the news and process it accordingly.

However, this brilliant educator of children went on to voice her opinion that since the door was just a flimsy little piece of wood, the shooter could kick it in rather easily or else simply shoot through it. And what with the second [unlocked] door only about 10 feet down the hall, if the gunman wants to get in, one silly locked door isn’t going to stop him so “either way we’re all screwed anyway.”

I’m just not sure what the hell this teacher was thinking divulging this info to the kids and putting this heinous idea into their heads. She could’ve just said, “I keep that door locked at all times” and end it there. They don’t have to necessarily know it’s to slow down a psycho with a semi-automatic assault rifle, because once that possibility is raised, it can be a little difficult to erase.  Then, by all means, let’s take away even that tiny bit of a safety net by saying it’s completely useless.

This possibility, that someone could be kicking into the classroom at any given moment (because sadly this is the world we live in now)…let’s just say that has not helped my daughter with her anxiety whatsoever.  And she can’t be the only one. Kids nowadays have so much to be anxious over and this is just one more thing to stress about. School, much like home, is supposed to be a safe place. Only it isn’t. You think kids don’t know that?  They know it more than anyone else.

The school itself locks all of its external doors which is a good thing. They do what they can, as most schools do, and that makes me feel better as a parent.   I just don’t quite understand the teacher’s need to give such tragic disclosure. We know why cars have airbags and don’t need commercials showing someone flying through a windshield. We know why we own fire extinguishers and don’t have to be shown pictures of people burning alive.

All I’m saying is that while I appreciate the safety measures being taken I think spelling out the potential consequences can be a little unnecessary – especially given the teacher’s added personal commentary. It seems to me that adding stress to an already stressful situation (high school) could be a little counterproductive to the whole learning experience.

Bad Parenting 101

I am a bad parent. Everyone says so. It must be true. My children were raised with empathy (oh my god!), compassion, lots of books, more hugs than you can count, and the idea that knowledge is paramount. Having these lessons also instilled in them a sense of independence and, I hope, a feeling of self-worth. They are certainly both individuals that I respect. And there I go again. As a parent, I should be proud (which I am, big time) but very few parents express respect for their children, especially if they’re young children. But there you go. I’m a bad parent. Just ask anyone.

In this crazy household of free thinking, my kids have come to find their own path in religion as well as other things. My son Jake leans towards Zen Buddhism though he can debate the philosophies and merits of pretty much any belief system. With his intelligence and insightful nature, it’s not surprising he is drawn to Zen Buddhism; it fits him very well.

So far my daughter Sarah is an atheist. I say so far, not to belittle her way of thinking, but because she’s only 14 and very well may change her mind. If she doesn’t, I say good for her. Everyone needs to find their own way.

Even as a small child Sarah has always known her own mind and while some parents would attribute that to insubordination or disobedience, I’ve encouraged this behavior. In a world chocked full of mindless followers, possessing a streak of independence is more than okay by me. It’s made for interesting times, that’s for sure. And many trips to school. I’ve definitely had my share of chats with teachers. Not due to behavior, because Sarah is always well-behaved in school, but rather because if she realizes an answer is right or a teacher is wrong, she won’t back down from the truth.

For instance, I had to have an extremely bizarre conversation with a 4th grade science teacher about Okapis and how they do in fact exist in the real world; they are not the stuff of imagination like unicorns and mermaids. Did I mention this was a science teacher? Sarah had brought up Okapis in class one day and had been told plainly that she was wrong and had made them up. Not one to back down, Sarah insisted Okapis could even be found at the Baltimore Zoo (which is where we had seen one). Sarah’s insistence on the poor Okapi’s existence won her a note home and me a trip to school. It was a true testament to the quality of our school system but also a prideful moment in that Sarah wasn’t intimidated by an authority figure into believing she must somehow be wrong when she knew she was right. Perhaps I am a bad parent after all because instead of lecturing her on the merits of “going along” or how “teachers are always right,” I commended her for sticking to her guns in spite of her natural reticence.

I’ll admit that they’ve both tried my patience over the years and some of the most frustrating conversations I’ve had with anyone ever, have been with my kids. Especially Jake. But then, I’ve also had the most stimulating and thought-provoking conversations with Jake as well. I’ll happily take it all. I can certainly understand why his teachers both loved and hated him though. He’s intelligent enough to seriously debate all sorts of topics which is a good thing. However he’s never been much of a follower and therefore draws his own conclusions, which, in a teacher’s eyes, isn’t exactly a good thing. Most teachers want students who simply repeat the lesson’s objective verbatim, not those who think for themselves. Jake’s open mind and intelligence with which to back it up was a source of exasperation for his teachers I’m sure. Let’s just say I’ve attended some pretty noteworthy parent/teacher conferences in my lifetime. But then, in our school district, Okapis don’t exist. So you can see what we’re contending with here.

Suffice it to say, no matter what I do in life, my kids are my greatest source of pride. They’ve turned out pretty well in spite of my bad parenting. I’ll gladly (and very selfishly) take the credit for how they turned out….but, and maybe more importantly, I’ll even more gladly take the blame for what others perceive as flaws. In my opinion, the world needs fewer “cookie cutter” personalities and more free-thinkers.

So to those who call me a bad parent (and you know who you are), go ahead. I’m the worst…and couldn’t be happier about it.

Partners in Crime

Partners in Crime