As I hugged my wife goodbye this morning, tears streaming down her face because it happened. Again. She sort of said something in passing, certainly borne out of sadness and frustration, but also bathed in brilliance.
“I wish we could just close schools the day after this happens. Maybe then people would learn. They sure seemed to notice when we were closed during the pandemic.” That’s not an exact quote. There may have been a few choice curse words peppered in what she said.
My wife is an assistant principal. At an elementary school. If I told you I wasn’t a bit more nervous today for her (and my kids who are at middle and high schools in her district) it would be a huge lie (and myself, I guess, as a high school teacher as well).
I’ve never met someone who loves their job as much as she does. The times I’ve got to see her teach or interact with students at her school, she’s luminous. You can see the joy working with her students brings her. As a fellow educator, I’m envious of it. She has it for every student who crosses her path. As her husband, I’m simply proud of this woman who pours every fiber of her being into being an educator.
So it’s not a stretch to tell you that leaving for school this morning broke my heart today as she sat on the bed sniffling after we broke our hug, after a few feeble seconds of me trying to find something to say that might make her feel the tiniest bit better. I told her I loved her, as I do every day, and headed off to my school.
As I drove, I pondered my wife’s brilliance. People were angry when schools were closed (except for that first little bit at the beginning when we were heroes, ahhh … memories) or virtual during the pandemic. Like, super angry we haughty educators had the temerity to advocate for our own wellbeing.
To further extol her virtues, my wife wasn’t saying this in hate or anger. She was saying it, as she told me later when I asked her to edit this post, as an educator (I’m the one writing in anger here, not her). As someone who needed time to gather herself and figure out how she was going to address it at school today, as has all to often come to be expected of the adults, sadly, in our school communities. Because she expects that same diligence from the adults we entrust our son and daughter to and that type of work isn’t simple or easy (nor is pretty much anything in schools these days).
Like most common sense-seeing Americans, I’ve given up hope of our national office holders ever doing anything more than offering hollow platitudes and then pivoting to blaming the other side for politicizing another mass shooting.
But the brilliance of my wife’s idea doesn’t require a president or a senator or a governor. It requires a majority from a school board. Four people (in the case of my district) who live in your community. Four people who are elected, likely every two years. Four people who you see at the grocery, the coffee shop, the ball field. Four people who can change school policy.
Four people who aren’t bought and paid for (yet) by special interest groups. Four people. Surely, four people can be brought to see sense and protect our children and educators and communities, right? Right?
Whilst this isn’t a large-scale solution to solving this massive, undeniably American problem, it’s a start. Americans have demonstrated they really hate it when kids aren’t in school. Just watch some of the vitriol from school board meetings these past couple of years. Let’s force their hand. Because maybe our leaders have been going about things the wrong way. Instead of a large-scale national law, let’s just start local. Let’s change school district policies. Let’s change policies that affect the every day lives of Americans and put it in every family’s home each time this happens. So the next time a Sandy Hook or Uvalde or Columbine or Parkland happens, our kids and teachers stay home. Just for a day. Just so teachers and principals and counselors and students can gather themselves and not worry about going to school the next day. There’s been such an impetus on student and faculty mental health these past couple of years. Let’s actually do something about it. I’d love to think this could be something national, but I think the way to have success with this is to start small.
Start in communities where change can actually be made and people can actually feel the consequences of there being a school shooting. Maybe it gets some traction. Maybe the media covers it. Maybe state leaders might hear about it, then national ones. This isn’t a gun control law. This is simply something where an educator — likely a superintendent — can declare an emergency for their school district and give the students and educators in their community the time to reflect and think and heal.
Any impetus for change starts small. I don’t know if my wife had heard this idea before or if it was a simple moment of inspiration borne out of grief and disbelief and frustration and sadness and the experience that she’s had to do this far, far too many times.
But I do know it’s a great and wise idea and our country is well past the time to start taking steps to make our children and educators safe at school. As with most things that happen in our lives, at its genesis was an educator with a great idea.