Letter to the Editor: As a teacher, school shootings won’t go away by taking guns nor giving us more

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OPINION — This is my life guys … and it scares me. I try not to let it or focus on it when I am at work … but I love my school and my kids. I look at them from my desk and want to cry. It is ingrained in me to protect them at all costs and shield them from any harm.

My classroom is my second home, my sanctuary … where I nourish and train teenagers to be better people and prepare them to contribute to society. My room is close to the backdoor of our school, and every time it opens my heart skips a beat.

My heart hurts that I as a teacher have to worry about this. I don’t know what the exact answer is. I don’t think there is just one. I do know that I have more and more kids that are broken. Their lives at home are horrible. They witness death, they only have one parent or none, they are homeless, they have addictions, they have anxiety, they have depression, they are abused sexually, physically and verbally … so much pain they have to go through at such a young age.

In the last three years these problems have tripled at our school. Just this year, we have had four kids talk of suicide in our department, in the last three months. I have kids on shortened schedules, or kids that have too much anxiety to even come to school. And, I live in a bubble town … St. George, Utah … where religion is abound and small town safety is limitless.

I can’t even imagine if my kids are going through this, what those in big cities deal with. The numbers are probably staggering of kids that need help. Help beyond the academic – you see teaching is changing – sure, academics are important to be able to succeed … reading, writing, basic math. But, these kids can’t function day to day; they can’t sleep; they don’t eat; they are too sad to bathe, too sad to do school work, scared to live. It is hard to face it and them, trust me … I come everyday to face their pain. It is heartbreaking. But, I do it. I use my own pain, to relate … to give them hope … to give them some of my strength.

But, witnessing these shootings over and over … it gets harder and harder to be strong and to not be afraid.

So, I deal with it. How I usually deal, when it comes to my kids: I get real. I fight for them and say what’s hard. So here it is from a teacher from a bubble town.

This shooting thing isn’t going to change by taking away guns or giving more guns to teachers or even changing gun laws. It will only change by starting at home. Our children are dealing with “MENTAL ILLNESS.”

I know it is scary to say or even frightening to admit. But it is true. The weight of living, the trauma of experiences and the loneliness of technological aids has led to this. It is real, and I see it everyday … and we can’t hide from it anymore. So what do we do?

Put the phone down, turn off the TV, put the game control aside … eat dinner at the table the same time every night. These kids need more love … they need more discipline, they need more talking with real people, they need our time and attention. They need us to be real with them … to set boundaries and expectations … ones that are hard to attain where they can gain confidence in hard work and the payoff. Small wins are good, but big wins lead to bigger successes for them.

These basic day-to-day things are not happening anymore. I know because my kids tell me. They eat dinner alone, or they don’t even see their parents at night. They don’t have a curfew, and each have a $900 dollar phone.

Parents both work, they are trying to win the rat race … buy the big boat, the 85-inch screen TV … thinking that this is how they provide for their child. Things fade, they break, they get old. Memories, time well-spent, laughing, bonding, human contact lasts forever.

I don’t have my own kids, but I wish every day that I did. But, I do have your kids … and I thank God every day that I do. And, because I spend so much time with them, I love them, I am invested in their lives. Take time with them … please. Get to know them.

Be nosey … take the time to look at their phones … what are they posting on social media … who are they talking too … what are they looking at on the internet. You have that right!! You are paying for it … and that is your child and you are the adult. Respect them by loving them even if it makes them angry … and I promise in the long run, they will respect you for it.

In these shooting situations, there is always that “what if” factor … but again as a teacher, and one that loves teenagers, I can’t help to be heartbroken not only with those that were killed, but those that did the killing.

This last killer – look into his eyes – there is an emptiness there. I am not excusing what he did, but I am saddened that whatever he was dealing with led him to do what he did. And if you look at past killers in these mass shootings … they have that same emptiness.

We as adults have a responsibility to nourish and fill that emptiness in our different roles with kids. This is an epidemic … times are changing … what our kids go through, and have to deal with is changing … we must change how we deal with them differently. We must mentally nourish them more. That is why we are here … to lead, love and guide them. We need to do a better job of it.

Submitted by TAMMY PROWS, teacher at Dixie High School in St. George.

Letters to the Editor are not the product or opinion of St. George News and are given only light edit for technical style and formatting. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them.

Email: news@stgnews.com

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Letters to the Editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or news contributors. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them. They do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News and are given only light edit for technical style and formatting.

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  • Kyle L. March 2, 2018 at 1:03 pm

    (Circle by Disney) is a great way to limit time spent online and content seen while online. I love it.

  • chris keele March 2, 2018 at 1:51 pm

    Tammy, thank you for giving us your assessment of this national crisis, and are able to tell us in real time what we are all trying to wrap our minds around. There are, as usual, those who view the answers through the lens of a political solution, the progressive’s get their opportunity to bad mouth the N.R.A. what a simplistic, artificial, solution. I have watched this disease at work for several decades now, and can tell you that things have been heading in this direction for a long time now, I first noticed a huge change in the family structure back in the late seventies, when the Mothers left their full time jobs at home so they could enter the work force and ” keep up with the neighbors”, and I am not really too surprised to see what has happened to be honest, I think all of us could maybe set a better example to these kids by “toning down” our rhetoric, and try and be a little more civil in our everyday discourse. Read what Tammy wrote and try to makes some of those recommendations relevant in your own families starting today, lets see if we can turn this around.

    • bikeandfish March 2, 2018 at 4:59 pm

      I too agree its a multi-faceted issue and I think the author presented a considerate viewpoint.

      I am curious though, did you just try to link this phenomena to women entering the workforce more consistently?

  • comments March 2, 2018 at 6:09 pm

    I’m always ranting about the moral decay in this society. When I turn on the netflix and find hardcore porn scenes in just about every show that tells us something. I’ve watched shows on that garbage service aimed at 10-12 year olds that are full of graphic sex scenes and sex dialogue. The liberals don’t like to acknowledge the moral decay in this society and hard leftist liberals often love to bask themselves in filth and degeneracy. The youths of today have no moral direction because our society has no moral leadership or direction. They push DIVERSITY DIVERSITY DIVERSITY and our society just becomes more and more fractured. I’m not even gonna start in on technology and social media in this rant.

    This is overall a fantastic letter. It’s nice to know there are still teachers that care. I went to HS in a small town in this state and the teachers were absolute garbage.

  • bikeandfish March 2, 2018 at 6:54 pm

    I would like to point out that this teacher didn’t engage in partisan name calling or blaming any gender. It was a thoughtful letter, even if I don’t agree with it all.

    Maybe we can not make this about “leftist liberals” or another political shortcut we take and recognize the elements she’s describing aren’t political. She actually admitted the concerns she is vocalizing are evident and growing in a religious and historically conservative small town. I thought that was admirable and honest.

    Maybe we cam start by recognizing most parents no matter political affiliation care about their kids and are often doing the best with what they have. And that maybe its more about a reminder to us all to slow down with our families.

    • comments March 2, 2018 at 7:37 pm

      If its any consolation to you ,bike, I hate “conservative” republicans probably even more than leftist liberals. There are basically almost no actual conservatives in gov’t. The degenerate in the whitehouse is actually a perfect sign of the times– all morality out the window.

      • vintagehippie March 3, 2018 at 1:36 am

        Since you do not like the “degenerate in the White house” is it safe to assume that you are disappointed that Hillary did not have the opportunity to continue enriching herself at the expense of this country?

        • Striker4 March 3, 2018 at 9:07 am

          Don’t mind the Prophet Bob. aka comments. this was just another opportunity for him to spew his narrow minded self absorbed garbage about anybody he disagrees with but I’m sure his followers praise him

        • comments March 3, 2018 at 10:54 am

          Nope, not a fan of the female clinton. I hold pretty much the entire set political elites in contempt because our political system is corrupt to the core. We haven’t quite reached the levels of corruption of a place like russia, but we’re certainly headed in that direction. A choice between “the donald” and the female clinton was really no choice at all. The public would lose with either one. We’ll see how long trump can coast along on the successes of obama era economic policy. I can already see that everything from stock markets to housing is headed back into bubble territory like before the ’08 crash, and we know what happens to bubbles… they eventually pop.

  • commonsense March 2, 2018 at 8:28 pm

    The blame game is easy, but solves very little and I appreciate the tone of this letter.
    Could the school doors be secured once the kids are in their classes? Any entry after that would require buzzing in and showing ID on camera before entry is allowed. Children deserve a secure school environment.

  • dodgers March 3, 2018 at 9:04 am

    Tammy-great job. You hit the nail on the head, got a bulls-eye. Thank you for taking the time to share, to explain what many of us know it true.

  • mesaman March 3, 2018 at 7:20 pm

    Tammy, I applaud your integrity and honesty. You must be a fantastic teacher. It would be nice, however, if you could stimulate the WCSD to spend a few dollars on safety devises at the entry to school buildings. The first line of defense should not be secretaries just inside the outer doorways.

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