Sunday, March 18, 2018

#NationalWalkoutDay - Wonderful Idea or Waste of Time?

Many have had a lot of questions for me - in light of recent Florida events and a viral blog post - regarding the nationwide walkouts that occurred this past Wednesday. Do I support it? Is it legal? How did I handle it? How did my school handle it? And most prominently... Do I think it's a good thing? Or is it just a way to get out of class play?

What are your feelings regarding #NationalWalkoutDay?
I think both, I suppose. And keep in mind, I teach kindergarten - so few of my students were prepared to leave for it. There were only a few who could figure out what time it was, ...and then every other kindergartener decided they needed to get up and leave too.

Personally, I think it's ridiculous that students so young participated. Not because they were too young (I truly believe age has nothing to do with it), but because of maturity. Maturity is also a problem in higher grades. But lasting impact is the biggest issue in all grades.

I think the walkout itself was a wonderful idea. Except no one is talking about it anymore. So in a way, we wasted 17 minutes of instructional time right before the third quarter was brought to a close for something that made the national news for a day. Then we all moved on to something else. And honestly, I think those 17 victims deserve a little more than that.

But maturity. Many students will jump up and protest to get out of class. Because they want to miss math. Or because they want desperately to fit in with that cool progressive on student council that just might make them popular enough to be Student Body President next year. The motives are still selfish. And I don't support that at all.

So how did you handle #NationalWalkoutDay in your classroom?
The rule in Miss Harper's room was: if you can tell me why you are walking out, and explain your position in its entirety, then you may leave to participate - whether I agree with your position or not. If you cannot tell me why you are walking out (i.e. you are leaving to goof off with your friend in the hallway), then you may not leave to participate. Only one of my students could tell me why he thought it important to participate, and I let him go.

How did your school, as a whole, handle #NationalWalkoutDay?
I'm glad you asked. Because before you think I'm an awful teacher for letting / not letting my students participate, you should know that my school as a whole participated. Can you imagine your boss giving a company order and you doing your own thing? Can you spell F-I-R-E-D?

But, my school administration wasn't stupid about it either. I was actually very impressed with the way they went about it. Allowing walkouts is an extreme safety violation (students who were counted "in the building" on attendance rosters were leaving without checking out or say where they were going), and come on ya'll. It's a National WalkOUT Day for students against gun violence. Talk about making yourself a target for the next shooting.

But heaven forbid we prohibit a student's freedom of speech. This was a battle I feel my district, as a whole, simply didn't want to fight.

So instead, my school created a designated area within the building for students to walk out of class and go to instead. They all gathered in the gym for 17 minutes, and then returned to class. As a metropolitan public school district, we recognize that demonstrations - when knowledge and motives are correct and moral - can be a very good thing.

How impactful do you expect #NationalWalkoutDay to be on an immediate level / long term? 
I am heartbroken - yet so proud - that one of my kinders recognized violence and chose to demonstrate safely and peacefully. That's like...12 battles won at a school like mine! But - if you've been around the blog for a while, you know one of my biggest peeves is empty words and mild actions.

Let me restate something I mentioned earlier: I think the walkout itself was a wonderful idea. Except no one is talking about it anymore. So in a way, we wasted 17 minutes of instructional time right before the third quarter was brought to a close for something that made the national news for a day. Then we all moved on to something else. And honestly, I think those 17 victims deserve a little more than that.

One walkout does nothing except raise awareness. Which is great, except we've been raising awareness since Columbine. We've been ready for step 2 since Sandy Hook, and still haven't done it.

What I Wish We Would've Done Instead Of #NationalWalkoutDay. 

  • Said "Hello!" to someone we don't know
    • We could've easily made this opportunity about growing friendships and fostering the school community within our own school, rather than simply bringing awareness against something that has been going on for far too long. 
  • Wrote a note to someone you don't normally talk to, specifically the "kid in the corner"
    • A lot of schools had "Walk Ups" instead of "Walk Outs." Who is that kid in the corner? Have you even noticed he's there? What about that girl who eats lunch by herself every day? What about the freshman who never quite got into a club, and now it's too late to join one? That kid - right there - could be our next shooter. He is depressed. She is aggressively anxious. And most importantly, they are alone. One friend might be all they need, rather than a gun, to make them feel as though they matter. If they need attention so badly that they will shoot up a school and die while doing it, then a good friend is an excellent alternative. *Disclaimer* They probably won't be easy to like. But it is oh so important that we give them a chance. 
  • Teachers banded together during their planning time to design / explore an SEL curriculum that actually benefitted their kids at their grade level
    • There are multiple curriculums for this everywhere, but we don't use them. "This doesn't fit my grade level!" teachers say. My response: Change it so it does. "My kids don't like doing the activities!" teachers say. My response: Create new ones. "There's not enough time in the day!" teachers say. My response: Make time. "That's just one more thing I have to plan for!" teachers say. And I get it. Believe me, I do. But my response: Lazy. This is not about you. 
  • Left compliment cards
    • Why didn't we use the time to write letters? Create notes? Make cards? Leave them in desks? On lockers? Posted to bathroom mirrors? These are the places students frequent. It's also the same places they retreat to just before shooting up a school, news reports have told me. Why don't we do this more? And why are we still raising awareness instead of becoming part of the solution in light of the problem? 
  • Decorated schools with Take-What-You-Needs.
    • You've probably seen these before. Take what you need! the papers read. And then there are little strips to tear off at the bottom that say confidence or smiles or laughter or love. Let's take this one step further, shall we? On the back of confidence, write the name and office hours of the school counselor. On the back of smiles, write a compliment that could be applicable to anyone, like "I'm glad you showed up to school today," or "You are the only one on this planet designed to be you." On the back of laughter, write the name of your funniest friend and an invitation to join to the two of you for lunch. On the back of love, write your phone number. 
  • Passed a law
    • But seriously, why have we not really done this yet. 
  • Lock In
    • Teachers lock the door for 17 minutes. Students gather on the carpet, or in a circle around their high school desks. Primary Classrooms: Discuss diversity, and reinforce the idea that good people aren't all good and bad people aren't all bad. We're all just people making decisions. Ask them what kinds of decisions they will make and why. Ask them ways they could be a good friend and why. Ask them ways they could "change the world' and why. Trust me, they will have some big ideas. Secondary Classrooms: Discuss the events of these school shootings. State some of the causes and problems we see in society. Discuss what we can do - yes even us "little people" - to become part of the solution. 
I'm not saying we shouldn't have protested or demonstrated. Actually quite the opposite. I think we should've done it and more. I don't think we should've used these 17 minutes to march and protest and then head right back to class after putting our posters away. I think we should've used these 17 minutes to bring attention to the 17 lives lost with hope, positivity, and strives toward solutions. 

This is a little much, don't you think? you might say. Isn't it wrong to expect our young kids and young adults to sacrifice time and effort to ensure other people's happiness?

Well. No, not really. Ha! Not if I'm being honest with you, no. I don't. I don't think it's wrong to expect our young kids to make friends in an open and forward way. I don't think it's wrong to reach out to the introvert in the corner. I don't think it's wrong to compliment people, to build them up, to encourage them in all that they do. I do not think this means we are taking responsibility for their happiness, because that is impossible. But I do not think it is wrong to sacrifice time and effort so that people might be happier. 

Actually, I think it's basic humanity. 

If you've already forgotten about #NationalWalkoutDay, shame on you. You missed the whole point. But here's the deal. We've raised awareness. We've done the protests. Now let's actually do something about it. 

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