Back to what was once simply the end of summer
The start of the school year, has always been a bittersweet one for most children, parents, and teachers.
For many kids, the start of school signals the loss of summer and much of the independence that comes with it; but then, it may represent some sense of excitement about seeing friends, new challenges, and yes, learning. For parents who were able to spend the extra time with their kids, the need to let go again, the need to get back into that routine, and all the stress that goes into making sure it is all covered, to the very minute, in the appropriate manner; but perhaps, tinged with a little guilt, relief that there is that routine, that there is this return to some sort of "normalcy." And teachers. Oh teachers! If a teacher has not worked a summer job to supplement their teacher's salary, or perhaps even so, then, there's the sheer mental and physical shift required to get back into the classroom.
And then there's the annual migration to Target or Walmart to supplement whatever supplies the school mistakenly believes are adequate to begin a new year. This in most cases is balanced by the anticipation of meeting a new set of charges, new insights, and challenges; and sharing these with colleagues who know and understand just how bittersweet a month September can be.
The new angst
In a world of changing paradigms, the new angst about returning to school is one of the most extreme.
No matter how you have typically felt about the start of the school year, as a child, parent of a school-aged child, and a teacher, just knowing that 22 people had been shot on or around school property in 2019 creates a shift in perspective.
It's no longer enough to be worried about whether you'll be in the same class as your friends, have too much homework, or not do well enough on your standardized tests.
Your sphere of concern expands from organizing after school activities, college-prep classes, and worrying about how to organize your time at those parent-teacher conferences.
Getting ready for the beginning of the school year means a lot more than wondering whether you can prepare your students adequately for their next exam.or the following school year.
22 is today's common denominator for our concerns over whether or not we can make it through the day without someone disrupting class, lunch, the ride home, or even a trip to the store to buy supplies without being shot.
These are not your typical common concerns over the start of the school year.
Choosing to take action
Between the two extreme states of denial and inaction lies the more challenging condition in which one chooses to take action. For some people, action may be the only response to the current violence, but how do you know what to do when the situation seems so antithetical to anything you've been conditioned to respond to?
There are many organizations doing good work to stop the tide of gun violence, from well-established groups such as the Brady Campaign, Sandy Hook Promise and Newtown Action Alliance to more recent groups such as Giffords.org, Everytown for Gun Safety, and the very recent March for Our Lives movement that arose after the Parkland, Florida shootings.
Each borne out of their own uniquely tragic set of circumstances, these organizations have all contributed significantly to the efforts to reduce gun violence in this country by helping to elect more gun safety advocates to Congress, to pass more gun safety laws, to develop more community awareness training programs, and to start engaging more people in the effort to end gun violence.
Cheat sheet for taking action
If you are or have a teenager who is struggling with returning to school because of a fear of gun violence, please take a look at the March for Our Lives site. It won't provide comfort, but it can offer a sense of purpose and community. Following the shooting at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 18, 2018, the survivors did not sit quietly on the sidelines; they organized the largest rally against gun violence in the history of this country and were responsible for the largest youth turnout ever during that year's midterm elections. This group is making a difference in terms of gun violence and can make a difference in a single child's life.
1. Commit to the mission (and donate)
2. Attend an event
3. Join Moms Demand Action (join a local chapter to fight for stronger gun laws, mobilize for community action and education)
4. Start a Student Group
5. Pass the Violence Against Women Act (sign the petition to help save lives)
6. Join the Gun Sense Action Network (help with phone calls)
7. Show your Support (with merchandise)
It's not so simple as the first day of school anymore. But there's action that we can take both for the long and the short term to help make future transitions if not less anxious, at least safer.
Thanks to all those who work so hard to keep our kids safe and who are fighting for stricter background checks, banning assault weapons, bulk firearms purchases, and more.