On February 14, 2018, another school shooting took place in Parkland, Florida. What made this school shooting different then the rest, however, was the grassroots organizing for change that took place shortly after. The youth in particular called for gun control and mass protests across the country. At my high school, several members of the student body decided to organize a school walkout on April 20th, 2018 to not only coordinate with a national movement, but to also honor the victims of Columbine. The students chose to involve staff members, administration as well as the school district in order to ensure that their voices would be heard (whether for gun control or not), the walkout would be safe and information could be properly shared with everyone. Despite the fact that the walkout was organized and communicated to the community, the after affects were quite shocking.
The principal took the approach of the human relations theory, which seeks to increase productivity by including or at least considering the social and behavior needs of humans in the decision making process. Since the students had really done the mature thing of communicating their plan to the school and the district, our principal felt it would only be right to have students voice their opinion on an issue that truly affects them. What resulted though was parents bashing the school on social media websites such as Facebook. Many parents in the community felt it was a disgrace to allow the walkout to happen, that this reflected the fact that teachers were not doing their jobs and that the students who were participating in the walkout had no idea what they were protesting about (my high school is located in a more conservative area). We had several students who had told us that they wanted to participate in the walkout, but their parents told them they were not allowed to. Many students did not show up to school that day, which left teachers in an uproar who were not in support of the walkout in the first place.
Even though this walkout allowed all voices to be heard (whether good or bad), was communicated and organized well, what I learned is that you cannot expect to make everyone happy and sometimes, in order to do what you feel is right, you have to bite the bullet. When the negative pushback began to happen, my principal could have easily cancelled the walkout, but since she felt that students had a right to be heard, she continued to support their efforts, despite push back from internal and external sources. As a leader, not every decision you make or action you implement is going to make people happy and you have to be willing to take the good with the bad. A good leader needs to allow people an opportunity to speak their mind, but they also need to know when they have to make a decision and stick to it.
On a side note, I wanted to talk about something that has happened over the past few days. About two hours after class on Saturday, October 13, I got a call from a co-worker who wanted to inform me that a student I had the previous year, Kennedie Ryan, who was a senior this year had died in a car accident that morning. When I began completing my observation hours for my credential program and when I started student teaching, I had always been warned how difficult it would be when a student at the school or a student you have passes away, but no matter how much someone talks to you about it or what you read in a textbook, I don't think anything can truly prepare you for that moment. Monday was really one of the tougher days I've had as a teacher. I pride myself in always keeping it together and being professional, but even when I talked to my students, I started to cry and I was just her teacher. I can't even imagine what her friends and family have been going through. On days such as Monday, teaching curriculum, testing or doing anything academic just isn't important. As teachers, it's important to take care of our students, but it's also important to take care of ourselves and sometimes by doing that, we throw the rules of education out the window and just take a day to honor and appreciate the people (such as Kennedie) who made the world a better place.