Greg O’Loughlin: Stop Saying Nothing Has Changed Since Sandy Hook
Greg O’Loughlin is a teacher and founding director of The Educator’s Cooperative. In this guest post at the Andy Spears blog, he pushes back against the notion that nothing has changed since Sandy Hook. Teachers have.
In response to previous slaughter of school children, the nation and our schools were stunned into circles, reflection, and extra access to therapists and counselors. Our leaders have failed us to such a degree that such slaughter is no longer unique enough to provide such essential emotional support. So again, in the face of a systemic failure to provide teachers with what they need to complete the task at hand, we’ll need to dig deep. We’ll need to seek support and resources from our colleagues, friends, family, and one another. We are left to create the supports our students need to explore their feelings and fears about the ways in which our leaders have let us down and failed to protect us.
What has become clear is that no one is coming to save us. Politicians who are empowered to make change that might stop this slaughter of our children are either incapable or unwilling to take action for countless reasons: an unwillingness to upset their donors, an unwillingness to take risks, an unwillingness to give the enemy a ‘weapon’ to use during midterms — none of those address the fear or stop the bleeding.
In the months and years after the Sandy Hook massacre teachers experienced a seismic shift in our practices, work, and behaviors in school settings. In addition to the planning, instruction, assessment, and analysis of decoding, research, and addition, we had to learn how to barricade doors with our classroom chairs and desks. (We learned which chairs made it harder to open the door from the outside). We had to learn how to stop bullet holes from bleeding with tampons. (We made jokes about it in the hopes that it would help make the experience less bleak). We had to learn how to dress wounds. We had to learn how to keep our children quiet while an admin playing the part of a gunman stalked the halls and tried to overcome our barricades. We had to keep an emergency kit of gloves, tourniquets, bandages, and blood-stopper well stocked. Surely, we thought, lockdown drills were a temporary measure while leadership figured out a plan to stop the massacre of children. The last 10 years have demonstrated that it is not the case, that there is an acceptable number of slaughtered children before action might be taken by politicians and people whose job it is to regulate the threats to our safety and the safety of children. That there is an acceptable amount of the blood of kids before anyone else will do anything. Because to be clear: teachers did do something.
Teachers changed the way we taught, changed the way we talked, changed the way we did our seating charts, changed the way our windows looked, changed the way our doors looked, changed the way we spoke about violence, changed the way we spoke about what to do in very scary situations, changed the way we addressed the notion of murder with children, and so much more. Teachers acted swiftly and immediately to address the trauma inflicted upon us and upon our students by both gun violence and by ineffectual leadership that lacks initiative, creativity or willpower. So, let’s be clear: it is not that there was no action in response. Teachers acted swiftly, decisively, and in ways that were traumatic and effective.