A Teacher’s Perspective on the National School Walk-Out

On March 14, students throughout this country exercised their first amendment rights and walked out to bring awareness to the gun problem in our country. As an educator, I firmly believe students need to be in the classroom at all times. In fact I pride myself on not calling the office for student interruptions because I don’t want my kids out of the room. They need me to help facilitate their journey of learning. You can’t throw To Kill a Mockingbird at a student and expect them to read it without having student-to-student discourse, or to be available to help them walk through the vocabulary that makes that novel so great. But I digress. Bottom line, my kids belong in the classroom. Always.

And then the National School Walkout was planned. As always when it comes to anything in the world of education, debates were everywhere. It’s a complicated issue for teachers. As an educator, knowing your students are passionate about something that isn’t Snapchat is a win. However, the last thing I wanted to see was my students walking unattended to the state house. When all was said and done, I had a minimal number of students participate in the walkout. And in my classroom, we performed a close reading of Emma Gonzalez’s speech to examine any rhetorical appeals. To end the lesson students, wrote a letter to the editor with the topics ranging from gun safety, school safety, arming teachers, the walkout, really whatever was on their mind, the caveat being it had to be their opinion, not what they think I’d want to read. As they wrote they found live feeds of the state house. Time and time again I tell myself not to read the comments section, but with these live feeds it is a part of the game. And although I don’t want to pull a total Jay and Silent Bob and track down every last person who had something disparaging to say about the students who participated, I feel that something has to be said.

To those who made snide remarks about this generation being the one that started the Tide Pod Challenge: I have yet to meet a teen who has done this.

To those who thought students were doing this just to get out of school: I’m sure there were a few who did that. However, it’s a long cold walk downtown, and I’m pretty sure staying in a heated building looks more desirable than walking in the cold. And have you met a teenager? The thought of messing up their shoes is a real fear. These students weren’t walking out in that weather without reason.

To those who said that teenagers don’t know enough about the world around them: I assume you haven’t heard of some amazing teens, Malala Yousafzai, the youngest of the Freedom Riders, William Kamkwamba, the Birmingham Children’s Crusade. I could go on but that’s a lot of homework for you to catch up on already.

To those who said that teachers and administrations were forcing students to do this, well,, if you really think teachers can make students do something just because they say so, you clearly have never spoken to a teenager.

When it comes to education, everyone feels entitled to say something because they have been in a school, but being a former student does not make you an expert in education today. When I think of my own education and compare it to what I am doing in the classroom today, it is vastly different. And I went to school for this, I studied educational psychology and I keep up on the research to become a stronger and more effective teacher. As a society we need to stop being so flippant when it comes to this generation. I think it’s time to stop, breathe and listen to our students. I have the privilege of doing just that every day. At the end of the day, this is their world, too. They are our future teachers, police officers, scientists, politicians, doctors, lawyers, voters. They’re going to be amazing, because they already are.

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