This first one I would like to discuss is that of violence in the community. Obviously the timbre of this blog will be much more sullen than the rest of them, but I feel like it is an important topic to address in schools today.
Newtown is still fairly fresh in everyone's minds, and how could such a tragic event not be? Since then, our media centers have been jam-packed with updates on the debate for gun control. Inevitably, the conversation led to whether or not teachers should be armed in the event something like this happens again.
The reality of the situation is that these occurrences are extremely rare, and there is hardly an effective method to predict when these sudden acts of, well, terror, happen. So, do I believe we should arm our teachers to prevent something to horrific from happening like this in the future? No, definitely not. However, I do not believe it would be a terrible idea to arm a select few teachers on campus (almost like an air marshal for schools) in order to minimize the damage. Ultimately, I would never want things to come to that, but I simply cannot help but think that if our schools were better protected or prepared, none of these tragedies would have to happen.
That said, schools are generally a very safe place. The violence that is spoken of in schools is more related to bullying or fights that occur from time to time between students. This is especially prevalent in high school, a time in a young person's life when social tensions can drive kids to become aggressive and even physically violent.
However, I believe that all of these circumstances can be avoided if the school consistently exemplifies warm, caring characteristics, which students can become comfortable with and attached to so as to not turn to violence as a respite from any social or emotional difficulties they might be having.
This is not enough. As Weinstein and Novodvorsky (2011) explain, the teacher cannot be passive when it comes to student behavior outside the classroom. They explain that it is important to pay attention to warning signs, such as social withdrawal, poor academic performance, uncontrolled anger, history of discipline problems, and drug/alcohol use, amongst others.
In addition, they provide imminent signs of violence, such as serious physical fighting with peers or family members, severe rage for seemingly minor reasons, and possession of weapons.
Now, thankfully I have yet to encounter any major warning signs amongst the student body of the school I am at, but that does not mean I can simply assume that everything is okay. To illustrate my point, a former student was killed down the street a few weeks ago, presumably as a result of gang violence. Due to the proximity of this event to the campus, it is possible that these events could bleed into my school and directly affect students and student behavior. I have been looking out for students that have been behaving differently since this tragic event, but I have yet to find any abnormalities other than students mourning the loss of their former friend.
We can see then that even if minor violence is rare, we as teachers must always be on the lookout for potential dangers. Our number one priority is the safety of our students. If they are not safe in school, where then CAN they be safe?