For many people, the answer to protecting our children in schools focuses on guns. This ranges from armed police officers patrolling hallways in schools to even teaching children how to use guns to limiting the kinds of guns that Americans can buy. No matter what side of the issue you are on, ask yourself: are guns really the issue?
"Parents can no longer be ignored or relegated to a minor role in education," notes Joanne Hendrick and Patricia Weissman in "Total Learning: Developmental Curriculum for the Young Child." This applies to children at any age, but especially to those in early education. Young children who have suffered the emotional, physical, and mental trauma of events such as the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14 do not need more exposure to guns, even if it is for safety. Instead, they need what all public schools need: a caring community that is involved in the life of the school system.
The home and school should not be split entities. Learning is something that happens in both place - only instructional styles and topics are different. So, how do we meld home and school life so that it fosters caring relationships, enrichment to each child's life, and the ability to strengthen families (and thus, communities, too)?
Parents, do you attend parent-teacher conferences, communicate with teachers to find out what you can do to help your child at home, thank teachers for the commitment they have to developing life skills in your child, etc? Teachers, do you make positive, personal contact with the families of your children, proffer educational opportunities for families on topics that would enhance the child's emotional and cognitive health, assess ways to augment your teaching style by asking for constructive criticism, etc.?
Guns are not the core of this issue. As a member of your community, find out how you can contribute to the school's learning environment by volunteering your time, resources, or expertise. If you want to make a difference, you have to take the first step. What's the real issue? The matter of the heart.
Sarah Kohrs, Mt. Jackson