This is a writing blog, but two things happened this week that I really wanted to talk about. The first is the #metoo movement that spurred Lin Oliver and the SCBWI to shore up their harassment policy, and the second is the Parkland school shooting.
I saw the School Library Journal article in which women finally started naming names of those they were harassed by at various conferences and meetings of SCBWI. And it hurt my heart. A couple of the names shared were authors I’d previously respected, whose works I’d read and shared with my students, and one I’d even met and was friends with on Facebook (I unfriended him when the news broke and was backed up by multiple victims, though he staunchly denies it still). I went back in my head to all the conferences I’d attended, and tried to think of any time in my professional life – as a writer, a teacher, or in the Corporate America jobs I held before teaching – I had felt sexually harassed by anyone. I couldn’t think of any. For anyone who doesn’t know me personally, I stand 6’1” in bare feet, and I’m a person “of size.” (a pretty euphemism for clinically obese.) Perhaps it’s the intimidation factor that kept me protected from the harassment felt by other women. I’m often told I can be intimidating. And if that’s the case, I’m thankful. But I stand with all of my fellow SCBWI members who are victims, and I’m glad they finally feel brave enough to shout down their victimizers.
While I was thinking about this, and how I wanted to address it from a personal standpoint, I got a text message driving home after school on Wednesday from a friend in the next county asking if I was okay, as the news was reporting a school shooting in my county. I live a few miles from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The school at which I teach is maybe twelve miles from MSD. And though I am grateful that I didn’t personally know any of the murdered victims, my heart hurts. I can’t focus or concentrate. Because as I just told the few students who came to school today, two days post-tragedy, when it happens in your backyard, it becomes more REAL. I sympathized with victims’ families of every school shooting from Columbine forward, but in my heart, I don’t think I ever believed it could happen HERE. And the fact that it not only DID happen here, and at the LAST school in the district you would expect it COULD happen to, makes it a real possibility that someday, I might have to decide whether to defend my students with my own life.
That is NOT anything any teacher should have to do.
I took a Facebook break yesterday because I was getting very angry at people who kept saying gun control wasn’t the problem, mental illness isn’t the problem, and blaming this boy’s actions on the fact that the “system let him down.” Poor baby was probably bullied, many who had never met this boy declared on social media. And yet, reports from people who DID know him were AFRAID of him. Who’s AFRAID of a victim?
I don’t have the answers, and I wish I did. But I really wish the armchair quarterbacking would stop. I wish we lived in a country in which we value our children’s lives more than we value the 2nd Amendment and our faulty interpretation of it. But we don’t, so I will have to keep on doing what I do – trying to care for all my students in the best way I can, and hope I continue to live another day to keep entering my classroom to educate my babies.
Thanks for reading my rambling today. I’ll go back to writing about writing next time.