As I sit and stare at the computer screen, I’m at a loss as to where to begin. Of course, the day is 9-11, which is a tragic day of remembrance for the majority of us. It seems hard to believe 15 years have passed. So much has changed in our world. My inclination is to examine changes in youth behaviors since that time. This saddens me.
Two years prior to 9-11 we were faced with the school shooting at Columbine. Our nation seemed to stop, as that isolated incident was very much out of the norm. This is no longer the case. Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook may stand out, but there have been continuous “lone gunmen” incidents since then. And it seems to me, the one thing the perpetrators all seemed to have in common was a sense of isolation. They disconnected themselves from others and severed relationships.
Our educational response has mainly focused on external safety measures – vestibules, bulletproof glass, mesh backpacks, locker searches. This concerns me, as I believe we are missing the point: External measures can’t solve internal problems. Our children need more social and emotional support. Unfortunately, counselors who are trained to provide these services are overloaded with master schedules, special education meetings and state mandated tests. Until administratively more emphasis is placed on supporting the mental health of our students, we will continue to struggle.
Although each of us may feel powerless when it comes to 9-11 and issues of national safety, we do have an immense amount of influence connecting with youth on a day-to-day basis. Children and teens who isolate themselves are in need of caring relationships. This is something we can directly provide. If behavior is communication, our kids are screaming 9-1-1. I sure hope we hear the cry and respond appropriately.