The Day After a School Shooting


The worst feeling that comes over me each and every school year is the day after a school shooting. I know, when I walk into the building, that every class, some student will ask questions, out of concern or fear. I feel awful not bringing it up, but I also do not want to open up that conversation. It’s this giant elephant in the room.

So I walked into my classroom mthe morning after the Florida shooting. 17 people dead. And I started teaching. Just like I do after every shooting.

But I knew it was coming. Madi, or Olivia, or Eva, or one of the other popular 2010-s girls names, asked about it first. She was trying to sound unconcerned, nonchalant. “So, what would we do in a shooting here?” but she had that edge to her voice that told me she was serious, and several other students turned to look at my response.

And here’s what I said.

I said that we have a plan, and that everyone in our building will do our very best to keep all of the students safe. I said that this is why we practice lockdowns, and that it’s important to take them seriously, even when you know it’s drill. I said that if you see something that makes you feel nervous, you should tell a teacher you trust, even if you think it’s nothing. I said that it’s better to be safe than sorry. I said that the people who carry out these shootings are disturbed. I said that this is why it’s important that we don’t alienate or bully our classmates. I said that we needed to practice empathy.

But what I didn’t say?

I didn’t say that this young man was mentally ill. Chances are, you have a student who is suffering from mental illness. We don’t need to stigmatize that any more. There are lots of mentally ill people who don’t shoot up public buildings. I also didn’t say that this is what keeps me up at night. I didn’t say that this is why I talk to the kids who keep to themselves. Every kid needs to know that there’s someone looking out for them. Someone paying attention to them. Someone is caring.

Today, and every day, as you walk into your classroom, let them know you’re there. It only takes a few seconds, and it could change lives.