On Valentine’s Day 2018, 17 people died when a gunman entered Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and violently took their lives. Unfortunately, these school mass shootings are happening too frequently. In a sign of protest and remembrance, Women’s March organizers have planned a National School Walkout on March 14th at 10 a.m. in all time zones. They are asking for students, faculty, parents, and others to walk out of school for 17 minutes – each minute representing each person killed in the shooting.
As an educator, I stand at a crossroad in my beliefs: Do I walk out in solidarity for the cause that in my heart, I support or do I refrain now that I am a leader of a school?
In my heart, I support this movement 100%. I believe schools all over the country should stand in solidarity with our fellow school brethren and remember the 17 victims. Most of me wants to walk out on March 14 for 17 minutes. However, I have to think about the position I am in now. If I were a teacher, this would be a no-brainer, but I am a principal and priorities change when you are the leader of an entire school.
As a teacher, there would have been no hesitation to talk with my students about this movement and plan an entire lesson around the importance of protest advocacy. I would take my class outside for 17 minutes. I would capture their reactions and their feelings afterward and facilitate dialogue around what it means. I would be proactive in considering what they would learn from this participation and help them to understand how activism has played a significant role in our nation’s history, especially in the Black community.
I am not just in charge of a classroom of 30 kids anymore; I am in charge of a school of 250. I am the principal, the instructional and cultural leader of the school. I am torn between the feeling of following my heart or listening to voice in my head that says worry about your job.
There is a quote that says, “If we don’t stand for something, then we will fall for anything.” I feel this is something that I must stand for. There comes a point where there are more important objectives in the world. Now, as a building principal it is my responsibility to have the school’s instructional vision in the forefront of all the decisions that I make. I completely understand that we are currently in the middle of IREAD assessment and preparing for Part 2 of the ISTEP; however, this should take precedence.
Seventeen innocent people were slaughtered. The least I think we can do is sacrifice 17 minutes to pay our respects. I know I can’t push my beliefs onto my students, but I have students who are at an age where they are mature enough to be involved in this movement. Benjamin Franklin once said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” The lesson I want my students to take away from tomorrow is they should be involved in important issues in our society. I want them to be more than just high performing scholars. I want them to be conscious; I want them to be “woke.” This is real life. People are dying; people are being murdered. One lesson I learned from Colin Kaepernick is there are issues more important than a job. I love my job, but sometimes there are things in this world that must take priority. I have 24 hours to contemplate what I am going to do. I may not be able to involve my students, but I have to ask do I do it myself and live with what happens afterward?