The media bombards us with images of violence. This week it is a mass shooting in Washington’s Navy Yard. Another case of guns and mental illness. It seems bad news and fear mongering attracts viewers and sells advertising. A simple solution is to turn off the news. However, there are television monitors in many public places, physicians’ waiting rooms, salons, airports, fast food restaurants. We cannot escape the images. Worst yet, our children cannot escape the deluge of violence and uncertainty. As educators, we have no control of our students’ viewing habits beyond our classroom. Some of our children experience violence in their homes or neighborhoods. Our children come to us with unspoken anxiety, sometimes expressed in aggressive, passive, or self-destructive behavior.
An Italian physician, Maria Montessori (1870-1952) dealt with children in war-ravished Italy at the turn of the last century. In many ways, the children who attended her schools were much like modern American children. They witnessed violence and lived in an uncertain world. Dr. Montessori required children to remove their boots before entering the classroom and put on slippers. This was an outward symbol to leave behind the chaos of the outside world and enter a peaceful place.
I wonder what symbols you have that home or school is a peaceful place. Children may have rituals that help transition from outside to home, much like Mr. Rogers removing his jacket and putting on a sweater. At home, you may ban the news, ask friends and family to remove shoes, change into leisure clothing or shoes. The ride home in the car can be a time to leave behind daily worries.
Many secondary schools ban gang symbols, certain type of clothing, or colors designating a safe space. Some schools in colder climates require a change from snow boots to stocking feet. Peaceful classroom teachers look for ways to help students transition, which may be outward signs such as boots to slippers or something more subtle, such as taking a few minutes to journal, observe silence, or take a few deep breaths.
Please take a few moments to share what you do to help students or your own personal children leave behind the chaos and enter a peaceful space.