I write to you an anguished educator, having learned of the killing of Colleen Ritzer, a 24-year old math teacher in Danvers. This news comes the same week that a 12-year-old in Nevada killed a teacher and wounded two classmates before taking his own life. The trend in school-related violence is unnerving and infuriating. These incidents should not have happened. But who has the answers on how to prevent such violent tragedies from occurring?
After such events we often hear that someone had to have known something, someone should have intervened. I ask that we reflect on who this “someone” could be.
I teach seventh- and eighth-graders, and have 112 students who are before me each school day. I try to connect with each and every one. Yet class periods whiz by. I want all my students to feel motivated, challenged, and respected. But can I say that I connect with every one, every day? No.
The limited context in which we see the students in our classes does not always give us an accurate picture of the whole person. We are not in a position to assess the mental health of our students. Quiet, reserved adolescents do not necessarily reveal the full scope of their emotional state to the adults who are dedicated to educating them.
What is the way to prevent more school-related violence? I am an educator seeking this answer every day, hoping I can reach as many of my 112 students as I can.