As a student in grade eleven I witnessed a shooting in the high school I attended. One boy was killed and another was seriously injured. As I struggled to finish my final months of grade eleven, I knew I would have to come back and walk the halls that haunted me for yet another year in order to graduate. There were plenty of times I considered dropping out. I had a job teaching dance so employment didn’t seem an issue. On a whole I thought maybe it would just be best if I didn’t have to deal with being in the school. I can’t say that I was able to excel at school and graduate with high marks but I can say that I did graduate and I have some wonderful teachers to thank for making it a little easier for me to tolerate and even still enjoy school.
When the shooting occurred, me and the 3 boys that were shot at were on our way to English. Three of the four of us were headed to the same classroom. Our teacher and classmates had to endure what seemed like hours of lock down knowing that three kids from their class hadn’t made it to the classroom. In the end, our class lost a classmate that day. The teacher of that class had his own difficult experience that day, just as each person who went to that school did, but I can say that he made the following days at little easier for me. As we made our way to his class, he would often be standing at the door where the shooter had entered and shot from. This helped me focus on the fact that he was there instead of on the door and my fears. If this had been the only thing he had done it would have been plenty but it wasn’t. He was extremely patient with letting me hand work in late. He understood that it was difficult for me to be there and difficult to get my homework done. The rule was as long as I got it in before final report card he would give me the mark it deserved. This made it so much easier for me to not feel overwhelmed as I struggled to get my homework done. It also allowed me to prioritize the homework for classes where the teachers were a little less patient. I think this teacher has been greatly overlooked for the good he has done in the school. I will always be grateful for the difference he made in my life, for being patient, understanding, and for acknowledging that this experience was difficult for us.
I loved Biology 30, partly because it was interesting and mostly because our teacher encouraged us to use our brains and not just regurgitate what someone else had put in it. He would broaden the way we viewed the world by encouraging conversation about all types of topics. He embodied what I believe the true nature of teaching is. On our first day back to school, after the shooting, he took time to express concern and ask us what we needed. Did we need to take a day off of the curriculum, did we need a review of the material we had covered before hand, were we ready to just press on? He acknowledged the pain and difficulty we may have been having and even allowed us to voice an opinion as to how we felt about continuing on in class. I loved him for being open and acknowledging the tragedy. There were days when I was struggling that I would refuse to talk to the trauma councilors at the school, and insist that he was the person I wanted to talk to. He patiently explained to me that he was a <span style=”text-decoration: underline”>career</span> councilor and then allowed me to discuss my issues with him anyway. One time, in the hall, he stopped me and told me if I ever needed to talk to let him know. This is why I had wanted to talk to him, not so much because of the title of councilor, but because he was open and willing to acknowledge that it was hard for us.
My English 30 teacher was and I assume still is 100% unique in the most wonderful way. She was my quiet caretaker. I knew she loved me by the way she treated me and I could tell, though she only once said it, that she would watch and worry about my well being. She had a way of making me feel like I was her favorite, and that made me want to be there. She was exactly what I loved, quirks and all. When we read Death Of a Salesman she had some of us dress up as the characters and allowed the class to interview us as though we were the characters. I got to be Linda Loman and brought milk and homemade cookies for the entire class. This teacher made me want to come to school so that I wouldn’t miss her class.
My Drama teacher played a simple role in making my high school experience more enjoyable. He taught drama! Theater is one of my great loves, one that was hard to come by in a small town. The drama teacher was also very open about the events that had taken place at the school. He acknowledged that we were affected by it and allowed us to be. Drama was a refuge for me. When the office would call to inform my teacher that I was to make my way to the Councilors office for my “therapeutic discussions”, he would loudly announce in front of the class, “Jessie, you’re wanted in the councilors office.” I’m glad that he didn’t try to keep it quiet and hidden from the other students. To me I had a very good reason to go to the councilors office and had nothing to be ashamed of for needing to go. I felt that being honest and straight forward about the fact that that was where I was going would hopefully make other people feel alright to go if they needed to. I much preferred his approach compared to the teacher who insisted on cryptically referring to it as, “being wanted downstairs.” As I got closer to the door I would look at her and say, “you mean the councilors office?” I know why she did it that way but it annoyed me because it encouraged the stigma that there was something wrong with you if you needed to talk to someone.
In general, if nothing else, my other teachers at least put up with my antics and lack of attention or effort in their classes. My Social 30 teacher put up with me being habitually late or absent. He put up with plenty of wisecracks and though he told me he didn’t quite understand me he left me feeling like he still liked me as a person and knowing someone still can appreciate you without understanding you makes a difference to someone who is struggling.