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A Personal Plea for Care

This is not the post I planned to write today.

I had in mind to share some ideas about how to improve the teacher pipeline. I’ll write that post another day.

The post I am writing instead is deeply personal. While I am the host of the Edjacent Design Collaborative, I am also a designer myself. I’m also a person. A mom. A teacher. An educational leader. A human. This is a human post, more than anything else.

I grew up in a rural, hunting community. I live in a military community. I don’t often shout this from the rooftops, but here is a truth about me: I am a pacifist. I’m not a deeply religious person, but a value of nonviolence is a part of who I am. I cringe when my kids play with toy guns. I hate the smell of blood. This is not an invitation to argue with me; I’ve done plenty of that in my life time, but I will state that I do not believe in violent self-defense or war. Shootings affect me deeply, perhaps more than any other kind of news event.

The first mass shooting I can recall from my lifetime was the Columbine school shooting in April 1999. I was already 15 years old and a sophomore in high school at the time. Mass shootings were not part of my childhood, but I am from the last generation who can say so. My older son was born less than a month before the Sandy Hook school shooting. The idea that he can go to school, the grocery store, a concert, and be randomly shot is part of the daily reality of being a kid in America. I worked just miles from the Nickel Mines Amish school shooting, as a teacher. We were on lockdown for two hours. I worked in the building right next door to the Virginia Beach Municipal Center shooting for years and my husband was a first responder, helping to inform family members about the fate of their loved ones just 3 years ago this week. I don’t have the words to express the deep despair I feel when thinking about this.

Just 11 days ago, 10 people were murdered in a grocery store in Buffalo, New York. Maybe this shooting stopped you in your tracks. Maybe you moved on with your day with a little sadness. Maybe you missed the headline altogether. Mass shootings are part of our daily lives. They often affect us only when we have a personal connection to the story. What happened in Uvalde, Texas yesterday directly affects educators and parents, two affinity groups I proudly identify with. The Edjacent audience is dramatically connected to this news story. So am I.

I am a mother. I can only imagine what it must be like to allow my son to stay at school after an awards ceremony because he wants a few more days with his class, only to find out my decision cost him his life.

I am a neighbor. I can only imagine the guilt of feeling a flood of relief when my children are safe, but another child I care about is not.

I am a teacher. I can only imagine what it must be like to have to shield my students from a killer.

I am a colleague. I can only imagine what it costs my fellow educators to contemplate returning to work knowing that amidst national criticism for our work, we are also expected to literally save the lives of our students, with precious few resources dedicated to well-being beyond academics.

I am a school leader. I can only imagine checking the school shooting drill box, not really knowing if the students and staff in my care truly understand what it takes to protect themselves in the event of an actual shooting.

I am a wife, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a niece, a friend… I live in a world where people I care about are walking around without protection from random shootings.

I am a human. 21 people are dead. I mourn, deeply, for their loss.

Every time a designer writes a post for this blog, I encourage them to consider ending with a call to action. I could end here with a list of the voting records of United States Senators on sensible gun control and encourage you to vote in primary elections, but I will not. I could plead you to speak up if you live in a state where lawmakers are pushing to arm teachers, but I will not. I could give you all the reasons why I fall on the leftist end of the leftist spectrum on gun ownership, an issue I am unapologetically “political” about, but I will not.

(I will, however, remind you of the excellent two-part series on gun violence in schools by Edjacent designer Doug Wren, Coming Soon to a School Near You? from December 2021 and 3 Ways to Reduce Gun Violence At Schools from January 2022.)

Instead, I ask you to remember this: the shooters, in each of these cases, were once children. They were students. They were in our schools. In a school system where academics are first and often only, in a government where profit matters more than people, in a world where shootings are so common they barely affect us or we quickly forget and move on, we need to double down on CARE. We need to care about ourselves, care about each other, care about the places where we work and live and love. It is tempting to retreat and numb ourselves, but what we need instead is to lean into our values and feel how deeply wrong, wrong, wrong these shootings are. We need to demand safety, respect, change and CARE for our students, their teachers, and their caregivers.

We measure academic success with test scores. We measure CARE with how we react to lost lives. What we do next matters. Keep caring.


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