The Problem with Guns, Pranks & Kids

Recently, the school district I work in experienced a social media crisis when kids posted pictures of themselves with the message — ‘Don’t come to school’ as we prepare to return to the classroom after the winer break. The problem is the students are holding what appear to be weapons — automatic rifles and revolvers — all of which have since been determined to be fakes and not real weaponry. The community is up in arms, and on social media parents are threatening to keep their kids home for the day rather than face the risk.

The local police department has issued a statement saying the students have been spoken to and the issue is resolved and there is no immediate threat to tomorrow’s school day. So I guess I will go to work as a teacher in my classroom, but I know I’ll look around and see a lot of empty desks.

There are a couple of directions I want to go with this commentary. The most important being the realization of how dangerous a precedent these students created with their ‘prank’ behavior. I don’t they realize the repercussions. I don’t think though, from reading the thread of reactions on social media that our society is ready to recognize the consequences of such a harmful act.

Guns scare people today, because their volatility, their immediate impact, their prevalence in schools is defined rather than speculated. The problem I have with these students making a joke of a serious issue is not as much themselves as it is the onlookers. Their joke could be someone else’s literal motivation to carry out a heinous act because it has been revealed and attention has been drawn to the idea.

I think the greatest fear of sensationalism is the action alone. Parents are reeling from this news, decidedly keeping their kids home. Some will eventually transfer schools. The community is frightened by the reality of this incident and this needs to become a teaching moment for our kids.

We cannot simply let it ride as a harmless prank. We must set a tone, and students need to know the seriousness of such an action. The students involved need to be charged with a terrorist act because they created an idea, a dangerous one, that might leave someone else intrigued enough to carry out what they thought was a joke.

We live in a suicidal society as it is. We cannot continue to give our students reasons to make poor and life-changing decisions that will impact their world for the rest of their lives.Our kids are being groomed within a throwaway society that is so impactful they have no idea the consequence that lays before them.

Gun-toting activists need to step it up and recognize this is dangerous behavior and not an over-reaction. Keep in mind, the gun could be your own.

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When Once We Stood Together

Today I remember then,

only when

I cannot quite comprehend.

I know it was with intrigue

I wondered about time,

was this perhaps the proper sign.

I would look to wonder

each new design

a telling of a simple future.

Seems we all have a memory

whereby we might all recall

sweet passion was most kind.

We walked together as one,

hoping for the same,

a recognition of love.

Seemed rather simple at the time,

we all wanted it,

we all shouted the words.

 

Freedom seemed attractive,

easily attainable,

put a smile on all of our –

insecurities stepped in the way,

began to sway

the intelligent soul

toward shutting their door

no one allowed inside

any more, none anymore

we cannot help put pity

upon those we left behind.

 

Words are different now,

they speak quickly,

loud,

their tone misunderstood

or simply not concerned.

Sharply stated.

Rude consequences,

never really apply.

Today

instead of a polite retort,

we rather quickly

use a firearm …

the natural way they say

if a conceal and carry

is the way to go.

 

When once we stood together,

now we elude society

steady in the drum,

the lasting hypocrisy.

 

 

Haven’t Heard

I listened only long enough to fear,

the easiest emotion,

that moment when suddenly confusion, our lives,

becomes less about

being in control,

far more about wanting to

run away.

I want that,

more than anything else in the world,

I don’t want to be there when it happens.

I don’t desire definition.

Whether we begin to accept anything at all,

seems relevant only to those who might no longer need hope,

those who are the souls walking the earth tonight.

They are the ghosts in and around our mechanical antics,

fleshing out the reality of our lives,

while we with little regard for our own sanity,

struggle to understand just why hate needs to be a precedent

in our daily lives.

I cannot imagine the horror beyond my own intellectual

reaction

to all of the cruelty that exist outside my door,

outside yours, theirs, and wherever I walk tomorrow,

well that could be the right place again …

the wrong time doesn’t really have definition anymore.

~

Perhaps there is something to the purpose of faith

beyond expectation, beyond us, beyond me.

Trying to Focus on Home

There’s this thing happening,

on the streets of my neighborhood,

there isn’t a name really,

just a lot of confusion.

~

Oh some like to call it

inalienable rights,

others refer to the

strength of the NRA.

~

Whatever the cool language

of the day,

what matters more

are the continued loss of life.

~

A bullet rips through the skin,

tears through organs,

with little regard for anything

in its way, simply horrific.

~

the steel blood of a callous

action, mending little ground

beyond ripping apart the soul

of anyone nearby – loved ones.

~

I’m unable to really speak

to the fear and pain and reality

of the world I live in today,

though not much different.

~

Years ago, we could call

an isolated incident just that,

where today, we cannot predict

what might occur in the evening.

~

What might happen tomorrow,

what if the movie theater,

perhaps the mall later on,

live on local news, film at eleven.

~

Then of course there are the students …

Racism, Hate, Evil, Bigot … Reality

I want to wrap my head around the pain,

because that is where we belong,

we cannot forget the horrific loss,

the tragedy of humanity at its finest,

buried within the wild constraints of evil.

Where does it lie, just waiting?

I know myself when I walk into a room,

a certain baggage wrapped underneath

a well defined mockery of who I am in the moment,

yet no pistols, no hate, no racist bigotry

anywhere near my body, completely vacant

from my mind, I am left tonight only feeling tears.

~

I don’t understand where we are going,

when I was a child, I used to remember

hearing about the bad things,

having to listen to the news, and searching

the expressions, my mom’s distant looks,

my dad’s confused head shake as the meal prepared,

we were all a family just trying to get along,

trying to figure out a way to understand

only just then what was happening in our home.

~

We weren’t worrying for the moment about

Vietnam, Kent State, MLK, Malcolm, RFK,

we were singing Beatles songs and now recalling

the beauty that JFK provided for those few short years.

We never had the chance to see what life would be like

when MLK would finally turn 64, when Malcolm would speak

further, when the world’s leaders weren’t gunned down,

because some crazy assed american could make it happen.

I won’t give you crazy assed american the honor of capitalizing

the first letter of our proud nation, the one you desecrate

with all of your base, and evil, entitlement.

~

I want to say, well, to get to the end of my notion,

which cannot ever really end, because the dialogue,

the spiritual freedom, the positive balance,

well that piece of our hearts that allows us to return

to our homes as a family. That piece of sheer humanity,

allows us to live, well that’s the piece we need to get back to.

~

I’m going to cry tonight because I know not what else to do.

A Morning Stroll (after the tragedy)

 Pinterest photo

Pinterest photo

Walk with eyes open, a different look today,

notice the change of heart, perhaps a hesitation,

that normal glance of hello now secondary

to this inherent need shadows fear’s trepidation.

~

Seems everyday can never be the same as it were,

when yesterday the stroll seemed arbitrary.

Crossing the street occurs always a bit easier

when safety, our very existence isn’t held contrary.

~

Their eyes were gleaming when later I drove by,

two or three standing together, smiling, innocent,

I watched as they noticed me a stranger whose ‘why’

rather might protect their hearts from hate’s lament.

~

There is race, simple hate, monstrous terror’s release,

The child’s eye is when love lost, crying, yearns peace

Days Like These … (on bullying) prose

bullying

I often wonder about my passions in life. I know I became a teacher for a reason, but that isn’t always enough to satisfy my curiosity. I love my job, I love the students I work with, and love all the challenges that come with my classroom and the stage work that occurs after the school day is over. Yet, I often still feel unfulfilled. I do have a beautiful family, wonderful wife, two healthy children that certainly create my reason to exist beyond all or any of my internal struggles. When those challenging days capture my psyche and I question what I am doing or entertain discouragement, my children come to mind immediately. My family and my students often help me to identify a source of purpose in my life, and then an afternoon like today occurs.

I spent the afternoon at a conference named Safe Students, Safe Schools sponsored by the Adler Graduate School in the Twin Cities. The conference was designed to address the issue of bullying in our schools; however, the goal was not only to mollify the many facets of the bully, as much as it was about exploring the whole process of identification. We often forget about the human nature of the bully when all of our energy is spent focused upon addressing the needs of the victim. Today’s conference intended to speak upon the many facets of the issue. The speakers were strong minded and provided wonderful resources to address the topics of the day. Like any conference there was a desire for more definition, more reason for attending, more need to recognize the burden of addressing such an issue in our schools without trivializing the actual label of the process. There seems to be strong commitment to raising awareness in the schools, but sadly, the execution of solution often falls short and the problem becomes a minimized initiative rather than a recognized need.

When I attend sessions like today I often personalize my reaction to the process. I think of my classroom and how I respond to my students on a daily basis. Today, I naturally thought of those students I find most troubling, the ones that interfere with the process of my classroom, the individuals whose sole purpose is, in my mind, to play a power game against my abilities and inevitably label themselves alone, as hostile and disruptive. I think of those situations that interfere with my teaching. I imagine those scenarios that have me wishing I could have the student removed rather than deal with their constant behavior issues throughout the day. I fail to think about their contributions as a human being and focus more upon their insubordinate angst. And then it happens, a speaker takes us along a different course of action. A person, a human being spends time baring their soul, telling their personal story of their child as a student in the classroom, from their perspective as a caring parent.

Tom Mauser’s son Daniel was not a bully, far from it. He was, and is, in Tom’s mind a thriving young man, filled with vigor and energy to capture the attention of his loving father and mother, and younger sister. Daniel Mauser is dead. He was a victim of the Columbine tragedy that took the lives of 13 people on a typical school day. Tom is quick to point out he does not want to ‘white-wash’ this personal tragedy by calling it an incident. He is adamant in telling us that before he begins the story of ‘that day’ that we as audience recognize it as a tragedy and nothing less. Tom Mauser is a real human being with the courage to speak to an audience of strangers, though active listeners, and relive the story of the day he lost his son to a shooting at Columbine High School in 1999. Tom Mauser then proceeded to bring all of us the horrific details of the day he lost his son, starting with pictures of his birth and through the early years leading up to his young age of 15 at the hands of the assailants. What is important to recognize here is that Tom began this whole story reflecting upon what was on his mind that day. He was attending a conference. He didn’t imagine that this day would begin and end the way it did, losing his son in a high school big enough to hide a percentage of its population on a typical school day.

I listened to Tom as I thought about my school and the potential for such a tragedy. I thought about my students and found myself thinking about ways to approach those students I wanted nothing to do with. I thought about why I became a teacher, and realized those are the challenges that I certainly signed up for when I chose this career. I thought about my own family and how easily I find my priorities becoming skewed when I fail to focus upon what is important in my life. I thought about calling my son and daughter. I then thought, thank God I am attending this conference on a Saturday.

© Thom Amundsen 2014