I am thrilled to report that I will soon be teaching again in a general massage therapy program. I’ve been geeking out with my brand new Pathology textbook, and making my partner smile with my enthusiastic flights about myelin. I can’t wait.
And yet —
I just completed the piles of new hire paperwork. It was mostly the usual forms where I write the same information 10 (or more) times over. This particular stack featured something I’ve never seen before, however. In the handbook/acknowledgement of campus procedures document, there were extended instructions about what to do in case of an active shooter on campus. I suppose I should have expected it, especially so soon after the school shooting in Florida. Even in so-called adult education, it has become a normal part of the standard paperwork that we educate ourselves about how to behave if someone comes to campus and starts shooting.
I refuse to accept that this is anything other than deeply weird and ultimately unacceptable. My office, and my classroom, need to be safe places where clients and students can explore and discover and learn. My whole profession is about the opposite of bodily harm, and I resent that I have to think about and be prepared for it as a real possibility. Because it is a real possibility.
I am watching the survivors of the shooting in Florida, and other young people across the country, speak out and try to change the world, and I am watching as the solutions they are offered only point to a more heavily armed society. I am seeing these traumatized children ask lawmakers to protect them, to help them feel safe enough to learn, and I am seeing some lawmakers and others respond by offering them even more fear. Arm the teachers. Buy bulletproof backpacks. I am having trouble finding conversations focused on creating a safe, vibrant, inclusive learning environment.
Except for the conversations generated and continued by the students in Florida and by other young people. They seem pretty clear about what they want. They want to learn without fearing for their lives. They want the lawmakers of this country to value children’s lives more than they value their interpretation of the second amendment. This seems reasonable and fair to me.
I’m going to start teaching again in a few weeks, and I am thrilled, excited, ready to learn from and with students again. And I am now aware, if I wasn’t before, how deeply important it is to create a safe space for my students. This was always important, but now — now it’s life and death.