I co-founded Two Writing Teachers 15 years ago. During that time, I have steered clear of sharing my political views. There were a couple of times when the co-author team crafted statements about the 2016 presidential election and the Insurrection. Otherwise, Two Writing Teachers has been a place where educators can seek out free information and resources about the teaching of writing. Two Writing Teachers will continue to be that place. However, after giving a heads-up to the co-author team, I’m about to get political.
What do I – a literacy consultant – have to add to the cacophony of voices in the wake of yet another tragic shooting? It may not be much, but I felt compelled to share something today since staying silent in this space is not an option for me.
I was in Philadelphia on Tuesday when I received the breaking news alert about the deadly shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. I clicked on the alert and was overcome with anger and sadness. There I was, standing in the birthplace of this nation, thinking that the Founding Fathers of the United States never imagined THIS (i.e., people being gunned down in schools, grocery stores, houses of worship, etc.) when they crafted the Second Amendment.
Gun violence is with us to stay because we allow it to be. Our leaders allow guns to enter the shared spaces of our everyday lives.Carol Ann Davis, “10 Years After Sandy Hook, Here We Are Again”
Here’s something you probably don’t know about me: I’m a politically active person. I interned for my former governor’s re-election campaign when I was a junior in high school. I attended college in DC because I thought I wanted to go into politics. I volunteered at The White House Office of Women’s Initiatives and Outreach during my freshman and sophomore years of college. Eventually, other interests of mine won out and I never pursued a career in politics. However, through the years, I’ve volunteered with several political campaigns through phone banking, text banking, and postcard writing.
After the 2016 election, I quickly learned that sending emails and texts to my elected officials wasn’t enough. I poured all of my energy into engaging with my congressman’s office since I found his views abhorrent. With my newborn son in tow, I spent much of 2017 and 2018 calling and showing up at my congressman’s office. I went there so often that the field office manager and I were on a first-name basis. We never saw eye to eye on issues, but we engaged with one another respectfully.
In the wake of the Parkland shooting, I paid a visit to my former congressman’s office to demand more than “thoughts and prayers.” I was met with the following from his field office manager: “This could have happened with a knife.” (My response: But it didn’t. In the first 45 days of 2018, there have been 18 school shootings. There haven’t been 18 mass knife attacks in schools this year.) “If we ban guns, someone could plant a bomb.” (My response: That’s a threat too, but that’s not what I’m here to talk to you about. 17 parents will be burying the bullet-riddled bodies of their children because an assault weapon was used yesterday.) “Would you support arming teachers?” (My response: I support professional development for teachers. I support having armed guards in schools so teachers can do their job and educate.) I know more now than I did back in 2018. If I were faced with this question again, I wouldn’t give a snarky response about PD. I would explain why arming teachers is a terrible idea. I want to be transparent so I’m sharing the actual response I gave to the field rep in this forum.
I remember being irate at these pro-gun responses. I encouraged friends to make their voices heard by phone or by showing up in person at the field office since our congressman was refusing to hold town hall meetings.
YOUR elected officials need to hear from you right now. Here are some resources to get you started:
- Watch “How to Raise Hell for Members of Congress,” which is a two-minute video from former Congressman Steve Israel.
- Find contact information for state, local, and tribal governments.
- Download the 5 Calls App to help you get started with scripts for calling your elected officials.
- Attend town hall meetings and/or request in-person meetings with your local and state elected officials to get your voice heard. We need funding to support the social-emotional needs of children so that schools are free of bullying, discrimination, and harassment. Who’s better than you, an educator, to talk about this with local officials?
- Pick one of your elected officials to focus on so that you don’t spread yourself too thin!
You might think it’s impossible to change your elected officials’ minds by speaking up. It CAN happen (e.g., Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey changed his position on guns after Sandy Hook.) It helps to enlist the help of friends and family members who are willing to speak up and out with you.
If you’re feeling despondent about the abundance of mass shootings, remember the Midterm Elections are approaching. Whether you’re angry, fearful, or forlorn this week, please consider donating your time, money, or both to a campaign that will help elect someone who will change the status quo in this country because you, your students, and all children deserve better.
- Learn how to fight voter suppression since this will be an issue this November and beyond.
- Pick a campaign, then donate your time by sending texts, making phone calls, and/or knocking on doors. If you don’t have a candidate in your community who appeals to you, consider sending postcards to voters in swing states that have critical midterm senatorial elections coming up.
- Find a nonpartisan organization and do get out the vote, or GOTV, work by making phone calls to remind people to vote in advance of the upcoming elections. While on the phone, you might assist people with everything from finding their polling place to knowing the kinds of ID they may need on Election Day. (I have information about the two Pennsylvania organizations I’ve done GOTV work with, which is why nothing is hyperlinked here.)
This work is exhausting. Things seem to get worse with every passing year. But I’m audacious enough to believe that — at some point — the voting public will elect those who will put safety before their right to bear semi-automatic weapons. Ultimately WE are the ones who will have to vote out those who fail to act at this moment.
Now that you’ve heard my suggestions about ways to get involved, I’m going to step off of my soapbox and talk to you educator to educator.
THIS. IS. AWFUL.
Every day, you enter a school building knowing you may hear gunshots. You have run countless active shooter drills. You know where to hide your students, how to fight off a shooter, and when to run for your lives. NOTHING IN YOUR TEACHER PREPARATION COURSES PREPARED YOU FOR THIS. Yet, you walk into school each day knowing a shooting could be a reality because we live in a society that has abdicated its responsibility to keep children safe in school.
You are an educator. You care for the children in your charge every day. Today and every day, those of us here at Two Writing Teachers revere and support you.