The past few weeks have been pretty heavy for us as a collective, on top of a dark several years. This week I've been slowing down and doing things that help me to process when I'm feeling numb. For me, that's painting, which allows me to have the space to then write down my thoughts. It helps me to get my head to a clearer space so I can mentally step back and recognize the feelings and thoughts just under the surface of that numbness.
So here's a bit of a storytime from processing recent ruminations.
I was a middle school art and leadership teacher for 13 years before I became a full-time artist at the end of 2019. When I was teaching, I thought about school shootings and protecting my students pretty much every day, each time I checked that my classroom door was locked.
Like many teachers, I'd run through scenarios in my head to plan for the worst case. My colleagues and I discussed and practiced how we'd lock down the art department building, with its many entrances, as quickly as possible. My assignment was to check that my classroom doors were locked, to pull any kids walking outside into the relative safety of the room, to close the blinds and lock the nearby hallway entrance.
My art supply closet floor was always intentionally kept clear enough to hide a classroom full of students. When we'd be sitting in the closet with the lights out during lockdown drills, sometimes, if the drill was longer than expected, I'd silently show my kids photos or videos of my pet chickens on my laptop to keep them quiet and occupied and to distract the kids who were nervous. Sometimes they'd check with me that it was indeed a drill.
I hated that this was a reality of my job. That it was a reality of my students' lives. But because it was, I wanted to show up for them. We studied advocacy, conflict resolution skills and protest art in class. I marched for my students' lives, attended their vigil and walkout after Parkland, supported them as one of their teacher chaperones in the anti-gun violence peer conversation group they wanted to start.
I was angry about the gun culture in our country that made this part of our day-to-day thoughts and routines as teachers and students at school. That this reality of gun violence was so preventable, but continued to happen over and over again. I'm still angry that it continues to happen over and over again.
We don't need more guns, or such easy access to assault-style weapons. We need to be able to go to school, or to the grocery store, or to church without fear of being shot.
Kids need to learn.
Teachers need to teach.
Schools need more books.
More art. More history. More futures.