It’s hard to believe 20 years have passed since 9-11. I remember it clearly. I was sitting in my car listening to the events unfold. I recall feeling a great deal of sorrow, but also an immense sense of pride at how we came together as a nation to deal with the loss. This got me thinking about other tragedies we’ve experienced since then, mainly in the school system, and how we’ve responded to them.
Two years prior to 9-11 we were faced with a mass school shooting at Columbine High School. Having never experienced such an event, the nation was paralyzed by grief. Of course, since then we’ve had Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, and sadly, too many other “lone gunmen” incidents to name.
Our response? External safety measures: vestibules, mesh backpacks, locker searches, bulletproof glass, guns, and police presence on campuses. Though I support interventions to keep kids physically safe, I can’t help but wonder why we are not putting just as much effort into preventing these school tragedies from happening in the first place. Simply put, external measures don’t solve internal problems.
The perpetrators in all these incidents had one thing in common: isolation. They distanced themselves from others, severed healthy relationships, and allowed skewed thought patterns to justify their extreme behaviors. They lacked social and emotional well-being on a basic level.
So when are we going to come together as a nation in an attempt to provide our kids more social and emotional support in schools? Lord knows, this situation has only been exacerbated by the pandemic. And unfortunately, our counselors, the individuals who are trained to best provide these services are overloaded. Covid aside, their time is consumed with master schedules, 504 meetings, test prep, and other duties too numerous to name.
The encouraging news is that although each of us may have felt powerless when it came to 9-11 and issues of national safety, individually we all have an immense amount of influence connecting with kids on a day-to-day basis. Children and teens who isolate themselves need a sense of belonging and hope. Fortunately, we all know tons of dedicated educators who despite the exponential obstacles thrown in their way, show up for kids every single day.
Thank a teacher. They are tired, overwhelmed and emotionally spent. But they are responding to the cry for help – and that is nothing short of amazing.