#SOL14: Everyday risks?

Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. Thanks to Stacey, Anna, Beth, Tara, Dana and Betsy for creating a place for us to work collaboratively.

Warning:  This is a serious slice!

 Who is the most important person or group of people at school?

That answer might depend upon your point of view.  When referring to the standards, this would relate to

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.6 –  Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

Two other anchor standards addressed by this post are:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7 –  Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.9 – Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.

 Pre-assessment:  When you hear “school shooting”, what are your first thoughts?

Jot down your ideas.  Hold onto your thoughts.   Last week I reread  Snowflakes Fall.  I was introduced to this book in Patricia Maclachlan’s Closing Keynote for the 2013 #TCRWP July Writing Institute in New York City.  Revisiting the back story was both riveting and tearful! snowflakes fall

Here’s what Random House says about this book:

“In Snowflakes Fall, Newbery Medalist Patricia MacLachlan and award-winning artist Steven Kellogg portray life’s natural cycle: its beauty, its joy, and its sorrow. Together, the words and pictures offer the promise of renewal that can be found in our lives—snowflakes fall, and return again as raindrops so that flowers can grow.

MacLachlan and Kellogg, who are longtime friends, were moved to collaborate on a message of hope for children and their families following the tragic events in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012. Kellogg lived in Sandy Hook for thirty-five years—he raised his family there and was an active member of the community. With Snowflakes Fall, they have created a truly inspiring picture book that is both a celebration of life and a tribute to the qualities that make each individual unique.

In honor of the community of Sandy Hook and Newtown, Random House, the publisher of Snowflakes Fall, has made a donation to the Sandy Hook School Support Fund. Random House is also donating 25,000 new books to the national literacy organization First Book in the community’s honor and in support of children everywhere.”

The audience / purpose for this book was to “provide hope for children and their families.”  While reading, the reader has the option to use the words and illustrations to determine if that goal of “providing hope” has been met.  A conversation about the book would reveal exactly which techniques worked best for any one reader with different readers choosing different sentences, phrases, or pictures.

What was the impact in homes not just in CT but across the nation?

To say that was a “tough Christmas” is a gross understatement.  Thousands of children sent snowflakes, many parents hugged their children tighter, other parents thanked their teachers, and schools were told to put school safety personnel inside their school buildings to make sure that children would be safe.  Yet what of those children who wondered if their own parent-teachers were safe in their neighborhood schools?

Is safe even possible?

Last Friday, the national news was again electrifying.  A student shooting in a school cafeteria in Washington State.  Two students died.  The shooter is dead. Headlines immediately begin to “determine the motive” and “analyze the background” of the shooter.  “Well-liked” was one descriptive phrase repeated about the shooter in headlines during the first 48 hours following the tragedy.  Sound familiar? Immediately the press began to report that the police response was different “because of Columbine.”  That struck a chord with me as I had just spent the past two weeks reading Dave Cullen’s Columbine.  At Columbine the police were criticized for failing to take action sooner – and in particular, needing to enter the building sooner! That text, Columbine,  was the reason I was “rereading” Snowflakes Fall  because I was looking for hope and faith in a parallel situation.  When I hear school shooting, I think of two:  Sandy Hook and Columbine.  Yet as I read Cullen’s text, I questioned my memory of Columbine.

  •          “How did I have the facts so wrong?  
  • What was the point of view of the news reporting as the event and subsequent weeks played out?  
  • What images played over and over on the news?  
  • Which pictures were replayed for the one, five and ten year anniversaries?”

columbine-cover-200

There were times that I wanted to stop reading the book. It was horrifying and mesmerizing at the same time.  I needed to know what came next. I could not stop, yet I also had to take breaks and could not just read straight through the book.  I wanted to ask,”What were you thinking?”  “How could you not know?”  for starters. Here’s what Dave (@DaveCullen) says about his book:

“I spent ten years on Columbine. I was driven by two questions: why did they kill, and what became of the survivors? My big surprise was that most of what we “know” about Columbine was wrong.

It wasn’t about the jocks, goths or the Trenchcoat Mafia. The killers didn’t even see themselves as school shooters: their primary focus was the bombs. To understand this tragedy, the key is letting go of our concept of “the killers.”

Spend a few chapters with Eric and Dylan, and you’ll discover two starkly different boys. Their personalities were poles apart, like the motives that drove them. Eric Harris was monstrous; Dylan Klebold was a revelation. The survivors proved equally illuminating. Their stories are surprisingly uplifting—a refreshing contrast to Eric and Dylan. Thousands faced the unthinkable, most overcame it, often in extraordinary ways. I was amazed by their resilience.” (Source:  http://www.davecullen.com/ )

Why was I reading Columbine?

My friend and co-worker, Dyan, told me about the book.  She thought I would like it so she handed me the book to read.  Dyan has participated and followed “Rachel’s Challenge” for years.  While reading the book, we had many texts and phone conversations that included:

 “Bombs?  What bombs?

“How could I not know about 100 bombs?

“How could anyone else not have known about the plan?

“How did two teenage boys keep their planning a secret for over a year?   REALLY, A secret?”

“Whoa!  All that “stuff about psycopaths . . .”

“Feel so sorry for Linda who lost her husband.  Does anyone worry about the teacher’s family?”

OR the rant about “How could they have covered up Dylan and Eric’s past records?   What were the police thinking?”

 The purpose of this book was to tell Eric and Dylan’s story about why these events transpired and follow up the survivors in the years since Columbine.  It was to report the facts as accurately as possible, correcting the record and not to sensationalize or villify anyone.  The point of view of this text was totally different from Snowflakes Fall which was written to be shared with young students.  Facts were verified with hundreds of sources credited.

How often have there been deadly school shootings?

school shootings

An interactive look at that timeline with 18 dates marked with deadly shootings is available here.  That timeline includes details on each of the eighteen deadly shootings in the 15 years since Columbine.  That data is shocking to me.  Even more shocking was the number of times that adults were also killed. Maybe the emphasis has been on the students who have not yet reached adulthood, that full “potential”, but what about the devastation for those families of teachers who also lost their lives?

Is this a new issue?

When I quickly submitted a google search for “School Shootings in the US”, the first response was Wikipedia.  Yes, not necessarily the most accurate but incredibly sobering!  The first “firearm discharged in a school” in the US happened in 1764.  The next occurred in 1850 and then the time frames between shootings decreased and the locations were all over the country.  (540 references are included for the article labeled “List of School Shootings in the United States”.  Mathematically, the risks of being shot at school seem low if the total years and the number of students, staff, and schools are all considered.  Yet that would not be a consolation if any situation involved you or your loved ones. Multiple Standards.  Multiple resources:  a digital timeline, online references, Snowflakes Fall and Columbine (Multi-media and two books).  Different approaches. Different styles. Circling back around to the initial question.

Who is most important at school?

Everyone!

Please pay attention when someone needs help!  Don’t wait for them to ask!

Is there a bigger picture to school shootings?

How does the pain and agony of the student or adult reach that breaking point without family or friends noticing?  That’s an issue for mental health professionals, law enforcement officials and forensic investigators to continue to explore.  What can we do? We can continue to make sure that each and every person is a school building is valued day after day after day! Thoughtfullness. . . Compassion . . . Caring . . . #YouMatter

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10 responses

  1. The data is sobering and shocking. We have so many kids in our schools who need help. Your research into the past shows this is not just about today’s stressed out kids with broken homes. This seems to be the human condition. Why isn’t there a cry for more school psychologists. The burden is great and teachers are not equipped to deal with the issues so many children face. I’m putting Columbine on my to be read list.
    Thank you for this post Fran.
    Julieanne

    1. Julieanne,
      I’m with you . . . i want school psychologists and social workers in our buildings so students and adults can receive the supports they need . . . even before they know they need them!

      Centuries of data shocked me!

  2. Fran, this is a powerful piece of writing in which you clearly stated your claim and supported in. Thus, you took us through the process of writing for purpose. Using the picture book to open a discussion of caring provides a glimmer of hope needed to discuss tough issues.
    BTW: Will you offer your perspective on “finding fall” for the upcoming gallery? Will you also submit a student piece?

    1. Thanks for commenting, Carol. I purposefully stayed away from the first three reading standards as I really did not want to collect a lot of facts, identify a main idea or theme or even follow character development (even though that was also happening as I read)!

      I plan to write something for “finding fall.” Thanks for the reminder.

  3. Ugh, reading about this topic always makes me feel physically ill. But, I know it’s important to keep it at the forefront of our minds and conversations as teachers, as parents, and as citizens. I read most of Columbine, too. I never finished it, but always intended to go back to it. Thanks for the reminder here, Fran, to not forget.

    1. Dana,
      Not my favorite topic either but solutions that benefit our school communities AND support learning are necessary.

      I just found it so interesting to also think about HOW I read this informational text (with a lot of conversation and sidebar trips to multiple sources). That’s also the task of “real reading” for life AKA “transfer” I am thinking!

  4. Every time we have a school shooting, I think the same thoughts and ask the same questions. And then it happens again. I think the problem lies with our society and its embrace of guns. We tolerate violence and we celebrate violence. Our kids are simply reacting to it, speaking the same language.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Tara.

      I think there are so many causes that need to be addressed. As you said, violence is often celebrated. The Halloween costumes give us a glimpse into that reality . . . unfortunately!

      I also worry about those folks, young and old, who just have no solid connections. Sad.

  5. What a powerful slice. I have not read either book, but you have inspired me to do so. I grew up near Sandy Hook and my brother lives in the town. It is amazing how that community pulled together and stayed together. Thank you for sharing.
    Clare

    1. Clare and Tammy,
      The books are totally different! Of course, that would be expected just based on the authors and their different purposes. The parents of Sandy Hook were so hoping for some legislative solutions that might also be proactive in nature, but we know that hasn’t happened.
      The TBR stacks never seem to diminish, do they? Always nice to have some choices!

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