This is the third article based on an interview with an elementary school teacher about preventing mass shootings. As noted in an earlier article, she requested anonymity in order to speak candidly, and she teaches in the suburbs of Washington, DC. A second segment noted her strong support for arming teachers. This segment covers family and community involvement, and the importance of ‘attachment.’
It Takes a Family AND a Village
“These schools are like small towns – some have thousands of kids, and over a hundred teachers.” And teachers see many different types of parents, and different levels of engagement between parents and children.
“Too many parents don’t know their kids. The kids are growing up without feeling connected to adults – even their parents.”
“Every teacher I know has said the same thing– they see that parents are not engaged with their kids. Parents are not eating dinner with them, or talking with them. Even when they’re with their kids, too many parents are on their smart phones. Handheld devices are dividing kids from families, isolating them from any human touch. If they don’t have devices, their parent hands them one. It’s a real problem, especially in an affluent school like where I teach.”
The resulting disengagement leads to real problems, she said. “Too many parents don’t know their kids. The kids are growing up without feeling connected to adults – even their parents.”
The anonymous teacher expressed wonder that some parents aren’t taking advantage of the freely available resources that can help them raise their children well.
“It really does take both a family AND a village to raise a child. Churches are begging people to take part in what they have to offer, but so many just don’t have time for it. It’s the same with programs like scouting. There are so many programs out there that teach a kid to be self-reliant. That makes them feel important, like they have worth, value; a reason for their existence.”
Keep Them Engaged
It is not impossible to keep young people engaged through their whole adolescence. In fact, it is critical to tap into natural human energy. That helps prevent a troubled youth from being sidetracked into mental illness and homicidal or suicidal ideation.
Adults need to be sending them the message, ‘you are worth talking to, setting a rule for, or teaching discipline.’
“Think about toddlers, how excited they are when they learn to walk; or how pleased a kid is to learn to ride a bike. True self-esteem comes from accomplishing things that are hard to do. They want to be better, they want to get a good job, go to school. Adults need to be sending them the message, ‘you are worth talking to, setting a rule for, or teaching discipline.’”
“My own kids didn’t have the internet in their hands until the end of high school. Parents have to talk to the kids to keep them engaged. When they were little, we played word games during car rides, we would the count blue cars, yellow cars; we would compare like and unlike buildings. By the time they reached their teens, we had a long history of talking while we were driving places.”
“I was at a high school concert the other night. I saw a little girl about 7 or 8, bouncing between her parents, trying to behave. They kept her quiet, and she made it through. Not far away was a boy of about 11. He was still the whole time, playing a video game. He never looked up, and never paid attention to anything going on around him.”
“… parents may have to take the door off the bedroom, take the phone away. The key is to step in and force them to make an attachment.”
The teacher mentioned a book written by one of the Columbine mothers. “She says she wishes she had asked more questions, and that she simply had been there more. Some kids need more oversight, and if they are troubled, parents may have to take the door off the bedroom, take the phone away. The key is to step in and force them to make an attachment. The kids may be angry at first, but they also will feel loved, and protected, and valued, when parents limit them.”
Teacher Training and Engagement
“You hear about a great teacher or counselor turning someone around. There’s no count of averted tragedies from having an adult step in somewhere along the way, because we don’t count the things that don’t happen. But if someone does that, it’s on their own time, their own dime, and at the expense of their own families.”
Nobody gets extra pay to stay after school, past their contract hours, to help a kid or to connect with him. They do it because they love those kids.
“Most people who work in schools are overworked. Nobody gets extra pay to stay after school, past their contract hours, to help a kid or to connect with him. They do it because they love those kids. Parents should allow more adults to connect with their kids, through churches, sports, and volunteer groups.”
Asked what training teachers receive that would help them recognize the need to intervene, the teacher answered simply. “We get annual training in suicide prevention, and in dealing with those who try to harm others. We could use more of that. We look for signs of depression, anger, or neglect, and we refer them to counselors.”
“Sometimes we will ask a counselor to pull a kid in for evaluation, or we may talk to the parents. But our students are mostly too young for real concerns. It really starts in middle school and high school.”
“It frequently starts with older kids seeing violence on screens, and passing that down in one way or another to the younger ones. Most have nannies or babysitters after school who keep an eye on their activities, but there’s nobody talking to them about what they are thinking.”
The repeated theme of the conversation was that all parts of the community need to work together, to ensure that young people grow up with attention and care. Nobody can do it alone.
“All my colleagues would agree with everything I’ve said except the part about guns.”
“Social workers are also totally overworked, so are police officers. Don’t know the answer to it. Lots of people who would be great teachers can’t do it because of the pay. The bad teachers get the same pay as the ones who spend an extra 3 hours a day.”
“We all talk about the same things. We see the same things. Kids need discipline. A teacher has to control her classroom, and parents need to have control of their families. All my colleagues would agree with everything I’ve said except the part about guns. Teachers are dedicated people. We love to teach, we love kids, but we’re all exhausted, all tired. And we all love our kids.”