Tuesday, May 24, 2022
Tonight, I sit at home concerned. Concerned because another senseless act of violence occurred in a school district in Texas. An act that by day's end claimed the lives of 19 students and 1 teacher. Lives lost because a person elected to take action against innocent people. In fact, my concerns are further heightened not only due to actions of Tuesday afternoon but also because of the other senseless acts of violence in a Buffalo grocery store and in a subway shooting on the east coast.
The aforementioned events of the past two weeks make no sense and lead me to consider so many questions. Some of the questions are simple and obvious, while others are ones that I can't yet identify. So, I will start with the obvious:
- Why would someone decide to take action against innocent people?
- What clues did the perpetrator show us or persons close to them?
- In on-line activity, daily actions that may have been out of the ordinary, journals or manifestos that may present themselves in upcoming days.
- Why didn't someone say something prior to the event, if they did see something?
- How could the acts have been prevented?
Reflection brings me back to my office around 4:45 PM and the voice of a news anchor, a reporter, and a therapist who all seem to believe that this event will not be the last. With that thought my mind snaps back to the now and a search for proactive steps designed to make our environment safer, inviting, and even more comfortable for all.
The evening news then takes me to another concern, one that discusses stories of suicidal events, some close to AHSTW and others afar, for both HS and College students who are taking their lives for various reasons: peer interactions, stress in regards to the pressure facing them in areas of athletics, depression, and overall mental health needs. Again, I find this hard to understand and find myself asking, Why? What can I do? What can we do?
Well, here is a start:
- Say hello and listen for a response
- Let each person know we are happy to see them!
- Create routines to provide consistency for students. Routines help create a safe environment and lessen anxiety
- Foster positive relationships and classroom expectations
- Focus on outcomes
- Be respectful of others
- Speak kindly
- Ask to know if a person is okay
- Listen, truly listen.
- See Something, Say Something
Now on Wednesday, May 25, 2022, our students will return and potentially return with questions about the recent events and how do we answer them? I wish I had THE exact answer, one that would put everyone at ease, but I do not and that is okay!
So, if I find myself in conversation tomorrow or any upcoming day, I might start like this:
Question: Why did an 18-year old student in Texas hurt innocent kids?
Answer: I do not know why senseless acts of violence happen. They could happen for a variety of reasons, so I personally ask myself the following question, 'What can we do to make our school safer?'
[Pause & Listen for an answer].
With no answer, I would start by prompting to expand the conversation:
- Could we check in with people? [Both Friends and others who might not be friends, yet!]
- What would that look like?
- How might we start the conversation?
- How and when would I follow-up if the answer was, "Fine", but the body language did not match?
- Could we hold ourselves to high expectations in how we positively interact with others!
- Do you know of someone in our school who might be struggling and need a friend?
- How do we ensure positive relationships develop?
Well, I know you are preparing for the day and I am very appreciative that we have staff who want the best for students. Thankful for people who are willing to have the conversation to make our school safer and our students comfortable. So, thank you for your efforts and what you are about to do over the final two days of the school year and the summer for our students and colleagues!
Know that I am available to talk with you on this topic and others as we can figure this out together. But if you are looking for ideas I have also attached a link to some supports: https://www.pbis.org/current/returning-to-school-during-and-after-crisis.
Have a great day and please let me know how I can help you on Wednesday or Thursday if the conversations begin.
Mr. Darin Jones