I was single minded in my drive to get it done. So when my independent study student, Alyssa, asked if I thought teachers should be armed, I did not miss a beat. The very idea of working with students in an armed or militarized environment horrifies me. My response went something like this: “I am against arming teachers. My opinion is one of many, I know, but a society that addresses its problems by adding more guns just saddens me.”
I left it at that and continued working. But since I got home, I have been bothered by the exchange. At the very least, my library science professors would say I conducted a crappy reference interview. Alyssa needed me to ask--
- Do you think teachers should be armed?
- Do you feel safe in our school?
- What do your friends and classmates think?
She, like many of us, needed to process her thoughts in the wake of such violence. She needed the ear of an adult who would listen. She did not get that from me, and this has pricked my conscience all vacation, especially as I watch Parkland students find their voices and begin to actively participate in democracy.
Passionate, informed, and well spoken, these students give us hope that as educators and as librarians we play an essential role in helping students assume their places in the world. We peddle literature that shows young people taking the lead and solving problems. We teach students to assess information sources, and we encourage them to seek and consider viewpoints that differ from their own. And perhaps most importantly, we listen.
When classes resume in East Bridgewater, I will endeavor to make it up to Alyssa in the listening department. Yet this is a small consolation in the face of all we have lost. School violence once again forces us to reexamine what we do as a nation. The difference is, this time our students demand to be part of the conversation. I hope we listen.
“Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela