The ironic thing is I was working on this very topic the day before the horrific events of December 14th, 2012. I scrapped that version for this one but many of the ideas are the same.
We do not nurture or insulate our children enough.
The amount of stress that a five-year-old feels today is greater that it was 10 years ago, much greater that twenty years ago and immeasurably greater than when I was in school. More than a half a century later I can still call up palpable, clear memories of my worries as a five-year-old.
In our current iteration we have slashed support personnel at public schools and subsequently loaded more and more responsibilities on those few people left behind. A similar statement can be made for our social services like police and fire departments and the hierarchical support of families as well. Many people, and especially parents are trying to do more with less on a daily basis. They lose ground as we strip them of services and buying power. Then we encourage them to enjoy the holidays.
Even for students from relatively stable, two parent households the holiday season is rife with possibilities for uncertainty. Much of that uncertainty is subsequently felt by children and yet they do not understand the source.
As much as they squawk and moan about it, school is a haven for many children. There is a set routine, expectations exist in their school that they can count on. Children know if they forgot breakfast, or didn’t get one, there will someone waiting with food in the cafeteria. After eating when they go outside someone will be there. There will a safe place where they can play with their friends. At a certain time a bell will ring and they will know where to go and who will be looking for them. They know that if they left something behind on the playground, more than likely someone will pick it up and bring it in.
Once in class the daily routine sets in and the expectations are known by all. Subjects and task follow sequentially and both the student and the teacher can draw a certain calm from that reassuring knowledge.
I can attest that as a classroom teacher I was a slave to routine because I am by nature so adult attention deficit if I did not enforce a schedule no one knows where we would’ve ended up.
Most days there would come the time that I found most satisfying as a teacher. As my favorite principal, and my most strident critic, Ann Francisco used to remind me, “A classroom should sound like a beehive Mr. Severson, not a chicken coop!” So I called it ‘hive time’. The class would be busy, working, moving around, interacting, talking in lowered voices and to me it resembled nothing so much as a busy beehive on a warm summer day. As I teacher I felt a certain security in this slightly noisy but calm environment. I cherished those days.
Because for all of us, calm can change to uneasiness or even to incipient terror in a moment’s uncertainty.
Children love Winter Break. They look forward to the unstructured time and the sleeping in; the excitement of the holidays and the opportunities to see family and friends. But they also see it as a time of uncertainty and it makes them uncomfortable. For all their supposed desire to get out of school for a few days teachers will tell you that student behavior gets a little erratic before vacations.
Often that is why teachers rush early in the quarter before vacation to get as much substantive work done as possible, which of course also heightens the apprehension.
We put too much pressure on our children. We give them too information and we hurry them along toward adulthood too quickly. Children are not our achievements, they are simply themselves, individuals in an ever more complex world and we owe them an opportunity to be children before they must be adults.
I don’t think the crux of the argument is whether we should enact stricter gun laws (we should) or outlaw guns (we shouldn’t) or even arm teachers and school administrators (???). What it comes down to is whether we as a society are going to value our children above all else because in the final analysis you don’t go to work to provide a bright future for yourself. You don’t have children to show them off like your newest tattoo or a cell phone that lets you play games. Children are the future, treat them appropriately.
Let’s do a better job protecting the future. There is no more crucial task.