Published: 26th September 2018
Should lonely students be left alone or should teachers and other students look out for them?
In Florida shooting, Nikolas Cruz, 19, who was allegedly involved, was kicked out of two schools and was ‘held back’
The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be — Anne Frank
Not always true if one goes by the record of shootings in schools in the USA. But first, the facts.
In March 2018, an Alabama high school student, Michael Jerome Barber, 17, was charged in a classroom shooting that left one classmate dead in Huffman High School, Alabama. Three weeks earlier, 17 people were gunned down in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, Florida. In another shooting in a Kentucky high school, two students were killed and 12 injured in shooting in February 2018. In Florida shooting, Nikolas Cruz, 19, who was allegedly involved, was kicked out of two schools and was ‘held back’. The litany can continue, but the point is made – the lonely, rejected, backbencher students came back to shoot what they considered as included and favoured students. In other words, the vengeful shooters were not the teacher’s pets but were ignored and rejected by teachers and other students. In the aftermath of these shootings, there were proposals for stricter gun control and arming teachers themselves. Nothing much came out of it though.
Against this background, it is interesting and instructive to note an article in Reader’s Digest (July 2018) titled ‘Looking out for the Lonely’ by Glennon Doyle Melton in which the mother of a student, Chase, approaches his teacher about her son’s progress. The teacher offers to help the student and the following excerpt is critical.
And then she told me this — Every Friday afternoon, she asks her students to take out a piece of paper and write down the names of four children with whom they’d like to sit the following week. The children know that these requests may or may not be honoured. She also asks the students to nominate one student who they believe has been an exceptional classroom citizen that week. All ballots are privately submitted to her.
And every single Friday afternoon, after the students go home, she takes out those slips of paper, places them in front of her and studies them. She looks for patterns — Who is not getting requested by anyone else? Who can’t think of anyone to request? Who never gets noticed enough to be nominated? Who had a million friends last week and none this week? You see, Chase’s teacher is not looking for a new seating chart or ‘exceptional citizens’. Chase’s teacher is looking for lonely children. She’s looking for children who are struggling to connect with other children. She’s identifying the little ones who are falling through the cracks of the class’s social life. She is discovering whose gifts are going unnoticed by their peers. And she’s pinning down, right away, who’s being bullied and who is doing the bullying.
When asked how long the teacher has been doing this, she said ‘Ever since Columbine. Every single Friday afternoon since Columbine’. It may be recalled the Columbine High School Shooting took place in April 1999 in Colorado, USA. Twelve students and one teacher were killed and dozens more injured in that tragic incident.
Says the author of the RD article, “As a teacher, parent, and lover of all children, I think this is the most brilliant Love Ninja strategy I have ever encountered. It’s like taking an X-ray of a classroom to see beneath the surface of things and into the hearts of students.”