Thursday, December 20, 2012


My school asked us not to bring up the subject of the shootings in Connecticut with our students, but to talk to them about it if they bring it up. I don't agree that this is the right approach, but I want to respect their wishes. So rather than broach the topic myself I've been asking kids questions all week, such as "Is there anything you've been feeling scared about lately?" and "Is there anything you heard about in the news that you want to talk about?"

Kids' attention spans are short, so I've met with limited success -- most of their answers have been along the lines of, "Yes, I had a nightmare last night" or "I watched this really scary movie one time." Today, though, the two young friends I was eating with both answered negatively, but then one of them paused and added, "There was something... It happened a long time ago. There were these three guns, and a man took them. He shot his mom and then he went to a school and shot some kids." [Six days qualifies as 'a long time ago' for a first grader.]

"Yes, that was really scary, wasn't it?" I replied.

"You heard about that, too!?" he asked, incredulous.

We talked for a while about how scary it was, and how they worried that the man would come to their school or their younger siblings' schools. ("I just don't want anything to happen to my brothers. They're too little.") Then the conversation took a political turn:

"I saw President Obama talking about it," said J. "He was crying."

"Yes, he was," I answered. "I think he felt really, really sad and scared about it. He promised that he will make some new rules so that it will be harder for people to get dangerous guns like that."

"I love President Obama," said O. "I wish that he were a superhero, like Spiderman."

"He is like Spiderman," replied J. "He's so brave, just like Spiderman."

"I think President Obama is brave, too," I chimed in, abandoning any pretense of being nonpartisan. "Brave people are people who feel scared but make good decisions even when they are hard. Just like you both do when you are brave and try a bite of your tomatoes at lunch."

"Yes, we are usually brave," agreed O. "I don't feel like being brave today, though."

"You don't have to try your black beans if you don't want to," I reassured him, and then I showed them this photo, which made them love President Obama a little bit more (if that's possible).

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