Inside School Walls

20 Dec

I’ve been around for awhile and I’ve seen a lot. Instead of being over the hill, I like to think of myself as stopping on the top and looking out at the view before I move down the hill. When I was a youngster, what really scared me was the witch from The Wizard of Oz. I lived through the killing of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy. The moments are still vivid in my mind, yet these incidents didn’t scare me as much as hearing about a twenty-four-year-old man doing the unthinkable in the 1960s.

The first mass random shooting in American history took place on August 1, 1966 at the University of Texas in Austin. From the tall observation deck of University Tower, a man killed 16 people and wounded dozens of others. This horrified me that this could actually happen somewhere in America.

I have worked in the school system since 1988, working with students with all types of disabilities, including mental disorders. I’ve worked with students from four to eighteen years old and have served at many schools. In elementary school, first grade was my favorite age because they seem so eager and ready to learn. Presently, in high school, I find I have a heart for students with emotional disorders, however, I worry about their future.

My first experience with schools and violence came when I was working at a high school in Oregon. This was after Columbine, making all of us in the school system aware that something could happen almost anywhere. I was lucky; our school only experienced bomb threats. But, they were scary enough when the whole school had to leave the building.

It’s a sad thing when you have to pray for your safety and for those around you each day before you go to work/school. Some thought bullying was involved, so we made sure our students knew bullying was not okay. But it is more than bullying and we practice lock downs often in our schools.

This week I am heartbroken that first graders are shot down, as well as school staff at Sandy Hook Elementary. Yes, I feel less safe at school, but I’m not frightened this time, but deeply, disturbingly, sad and grieving. Students of the age I have favored so dearly are leaving this world due to a person with an emotional or mental disorder, another type of student I care about.

This is the first time, I’ve really asked why. Besides the fact that we all have free choice in what we do, I can’t give you a precise answer, but I have learned something through watching.  I’ve learned that the whole nation is suffering, not only the victim’s families. So many of us would do anything to help when there is not much we can do but pray.  I’ve learned that in an era of complaining about schools not doing enough, Sandy Hook’s staff members have given their lives for their students, and our love for our students has been exposed.

As a youngster, I learned to have faith in a higher power and still today I realize I don’t know how to exist without finding comfort there, and finding solace that when I get down this hill I’m traveling and pass on, I will get to move through an often mentioned tunnel of light and see my loved ones waiting for me and some of them will be students.


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20 responses to “Inside School Walls

  1. Meredith Conner

    December 20, 2012 at 7:40 AM

    It’s an awful, awful thing. Thanks for the post.

    • maryvine

      December 20, 2012 at 10:50 AM

      Thanks for commenting, Meredith!

  2. Peggy Staggs

    December 20, 2012 at 8:11 AM

    I still can’t think about it without tearing up.

    • maryvine

      December 20, 2012 at 10:51 AM

      I know, Peggy. I was at the dollar store today and saw the teacher section and I felt it in my stomach.

  3. stephaniebergets

    December 20, 2012 at 8:26 AM

    Your post summed up what all of us are feeling. I’m deeply, disturbingly, sad and grieving. This is how I feel too.

    • maryvine

      December 20, 2012 at 10:52 AM

      Yes, Steph, I think we’ll remember this one for a very, very long time.

  4. Janis McCurry

    December 20, 2012 at 8:32 AM

    I think we accept horrific things happen and try to do all we can to protect our loved ones.

    • maryvine

      December 20, 2012 at 10:55 AM

      Yes, Janis, we do accept horrific things as we are exposed to so much. When I tell high school students that the scariest movie I saw when I was younger was the Wizard of Oz, they chuckle.

  5. Judith Keim

    December 20, 2012 at 8:35 AM

    Mary, what a wonderful post. I loved hearing from you as a person and as a teacher. I’ve thought of teachers so often during this horror. I have a niece who works with special needs students. She loves her work but wonders what will become of some of her students. So many people are talking about gun control. However, I think the overwhelming problem in this country is the way we disregard the mentally ill. I don’t have all the answers, of course, but I hope in the future we give more help to those who need our special attention

  6. maryvine

    December 20, 2012 at 10:56 AM

    Thanks for reading, Judith, and for the kind words. It means a lot.

  7. marsharwest

    December 20, 2012 at 4:24 PM

    Glad you posted this, Mary. I think any of us in education presently or past are sharing in the suffering. I was the AP at an elementary school in FW when there was a shooting at a Baptist church across the street. This was in the fall after Columbine. That shooting wasn’t a catalist for action for our community, but the Wedgewood Baptist church shooting was. Our school was used as the crises center. Parents waited there to hear about their kids. There is nothing more tragic.
    The Superintendent, and upper administrators gathered in my principal’s office as we figured out how to handle the children in our school, some of whom had lost older syblings. We sent them to other three other schools for several days or a week.
    As a result of that shooting, the school district, city, the religious community, and agencies came together to improve communication should another crises develop. Lock down drills, became common place. Developing a crises plan became imperative after 9/11.
    This evening, I’ll be attending a candle light vigil for everyone involved in the Sandy Lake shooting. It’s being run by those same groups above. It will be hard to go, but along with prayer seems the least I can do.
    Thank you for your post and for your service to our special needs kids.

    • maryvine

      December 20, 2012 at 8:24 PM

      Thanks so much for sharing, Marsha. I appreciated reading it. Good for you for gathering, but then there’s not much more we can do.

  8. Lynn Mapp

    December 20, 2012 at 7:49 PM

    Mary, this event…will stay with us for the rest of our lives. I too was once a 1st grade teacher. As I was driving to work Monday morning, a dj was commenting on teachers. He acknowledged the job teachers do, everyday. The teacher trying to shield her students, the principal rushing the gunman, it was all in a days work. As a group of 1st graders walked past me today, tears gathered in my eyes. They are so small, so sweet. This is a national tragedy.

    • maryvine

      December 20, 2012 at 8:22 PM

      Oh, Lynn, I can’t imagine how tough it would be to see first graders right now. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Jennifer

    December 20, 2012 at 10:59 PM

    Mary, As a mother of young children, a teacher and a fellow human being, this horrific incident has affected me in so many ways. Let’s not believe that there is nothing we can do though. Gun control, better access to mental health, support for the parents of children with mental health issues. I don’t know that there is one answer but let’s leave no stone unturned. We owe it to our children.

    • maryvine

      December 24, 2012 at 3:27 PM

      Yes, Jennifer, no stone unturned. I sure hope there will be some changes in the mental health system.

  10. ramblingsfromtheleft

    December 21, 2012 at 5:53 AM

    Mary, we will all remember this for a very, very long time. There are no words and no way we can place this into our life experience that makes sense.

    • maryvine

      December 24, 2012 at 3:28 PM

      You said it real well, Florence. And, it’s nice to see you here commenting!

  11. Marylin Warner

    December 24, 2012 at 12:25 PM

    I, too, have lived through all the things you listed. Still, each new assault on humans is a fresh new pain. When the news put faces with all the victims’ names and told a little about each strength, I cried at the loss of life, but also the lives that could have added so much good to our world.
    Thanks for a lovely, truthful post.

  12. maryvine

    December 24, 2012 at 3:29 PM

    Thanks for commenting and sharing, Marylin!


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