Not surprisingly, the Coffee Talk (student led discussion) in four of my five classes today centered around the tragedy in Las Vegas. Students argued for gun control, countered with the difficulty of enforcement, and the fact that gun conrol laws will never stop all violence.
Students were, for the most part, humble and respectful and more than a little insightful. They were sad, some were fearful, but few where angry beyond what is normal when lives are lost for such...senselessness.
One student asked a pointed question, though- "Does it impact you personally?"
There intent was if we knew anyone there (I think), but the question is hinting at something that always lies just beneath the surface of most conversations in education:
"Why does it matter to you?"
In the face of yet another national tragedy, latest in a line far too long to count over the last few years, let alone decades, we can become desensitized, or even question why the things we teach daily even matter when there is such madness in the world.
But today, I say it matters all the more. We teach math, science, reading, writing, history, debate, art, athletics, career tech, and personal skills. But hopefully we teach so much more. Hopefully we teach character and kindness, patience and endurance. We should be teaching how to offer a hand not a judgment, and a second chance instead of a failing grade. We should, at the same time, teach consequences and expectations- though not in that order. We need to show that we care and are there- and approachable. We need to listen to the room even when the room is full of overactive kindergarteners (or seniors) because these are the voices that can save us from the mess we have made.
Why does Las Vegas matter to me?
Because if it is ever going to stop, it will not be because of legislation or destruction of guns or sweeping reform of mental health screening.
It will stop because people learn to be better. It will stop because we teach respect and honesty and integrity and the hard way that is sometimes the best way to make a difference.
It will stop because teachers- those professional educators and clergy and parents and peers and people on the street who are all in fact a part of our human education- show us why it matters to each of us.
It matters to me because I believe we can be better. And I believe we will be.
We just need to learn how.
And it starts with a conversation.
Join me, won't you?
I teach Psychology, Sociology, Communication Applications and Debate at College Station High School, as well as coach the debate team and co-sponsor Student Council. I am an aspiring administrator.