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Well, I guess it's time that someone start a post about this.

On Monday I honestly felt a little uneasy about how scary it was that any one person in any random class of mine could lose their head and take my life. I know that it is a common perception in society that schools have become more violent in recent times, but I believe that the facts would suggest that violent crimes have decreased in the years since the 80s and 90s.

Do you all feel more or less safe going into the teaching profession? Is there anything that even the most passionate, caring teacher can do to prevent these sort of atrocities? Can we even cope with what happened in Blacksburg without knowing the kid's motive or intentions? How can I help to keep this from happening again if I don't even understand what can drive a student to kill 30 of his peers?

I was in high school during Columbine and here in college during this shit. Why is this happening to my people, my generation??


Wed Apr 18, 2007 12:25 am
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Unfortunately, I think most of the answer to most of these questions is "I don't know". I honestly feel safe going into my profession because I live with the belief that what will be will be. I am comfortable enough in my religious beliefs that I could be killed tomorrow and know where I am going (not that I want to die). I think that the best that we can do is be there for our students, recognize warning signs, and attempt to get them help. No matter what we do, however, some people are going to do evil things to others. Reports say that this student was an English major whose creative writing assignments were disturbing. A professor refered him to the counseling center, but who knows if he went or if it helped. I think asking "why" is exactly what we should be doing, regardless of if we have an answer or not.

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Erin Nevitt


Wed Apr 18, 2007 12:40 am
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I agree a lot with you Erin. I have no answers really, but I do see the importance in asking Why? I feel that many times we just get fed up with not having answers and stop asking why...but that is why we repeat history so often because no one truly addresses the issues at hand. I think this tragedy is one that hits on so many issues and most of them relating to my exact field of study. I don't want history to repeat itself and we have seen it do it already from columbine to VT and all the ones in between just in our generation. My personal belief is that the only way we can fix any of this is through building a sense of community that is based on love and care for all of humanity. I know its a long shot but we can each begin to do that, every year within our classrooms. We have an exciting profession, one that we can reach hundreds of kids in our careers. We can make a difference and that is what makes me not scared to enter the teaching profession. When we become fearful we do not let our light shine through to others and thus hinder their ability to share their light.
These are some of my favorite quotes that pertain to this issue:

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
Nelson Mandela

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.â€

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Wed Apr 18, 2007 8:22 am
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I believe in the power that we will have as teachers to positively to impact people’s lives. I believe that with intuition and a bit of awareness we can see sense problems that we can maybe address before they get out of hand. However, I don’t think that we can really ever eradicate this type of violence. There are a ton of people in the world right now. Ratios dictate that a certain number of them will be emotionally unhinged or psychologically abnormal. The traits of a sociopath develop so young in people. As early as elementary school some children are absent of the ability to empathize with others. That is the root of sociopathology, the inability to empathize, the complete divide between them and me. This usually manifests itself in three ways, late bed-wetting, cruelty to animals, and fire starting. There is almost always abuse or neglect that impedes the development of proper social associations. Once this happens, it is almost impossible to erase the mental damage that has been done. It may not be possible at all, but perhaps possible to dissuade violence.
Could someone, perhaps a caring teacher, have reached out to the Virginia Tech shooter, and by doing so changed his thoughts and actions? Maybe, but maybe not.
Now comes the truly tricky part for currently working teachers: to show discretion and not report every student who writes dark poetry, prose, or song lyrics; to not over react at the smallest signs of teenage angst. But to still try to recognize a student who really might be headed down a dangerous path.

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Matthew Pickard


Wed Apr 18, 2007 8:42 pm
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I completely agree with Matt. I think that we as teachers do have a large impact, but there is no way of knowing if we could truly change someone like the young man at VT. I think that we cannot live in fear of our students and of what could or could not happen. We could lose our live walking down the street just as easily as in the classroom, and I think that we just need to be able to use discretion when listening to students and reading what they choose to write about. The real reason that I chose to become a teacher was watching the impact that my mother had on kids, whether they were brilliant or at the bottom of their class. I want to have that gift and maybe be able to give some child a glimpse of a greater hope than what they might experience at home.

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Sara G Marshall


Wed Apr 18, 2007 9:01 pm
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I feel that yes you can save some students from doing something that could come out badly, but at the same time there are those students that have had so many horrible things happen in their lives that they feel nothing will help them. As teachers it is our responsibility to try and help everyone that we can but some students have already made up their minds. Still I think we should try to reach them anyway.


Wed Apr 18, 2007 9:30 pm
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Over this semester, the fact that our schools are simply microcasms of the greater society has become more and more apparent. What we see in our classrooms is simply a reflection of the culture at large. Honestly, I think there isn't much we can do to prevent such horrendous acts of violence from occuring. I'm not afraid of our learning communities becoming havens for violence but I am fearful of the direction American society is heading. Because sadly, this massacre has only fueled the arms control debate and there are millions of Americans who feel the nation should be armed. Fox News actually went as far as posing the question that perhaps students and facutly at universities should be armed. How long will it take for this country to realize that guns only create violence and despair. Guns are made to wound or kill.

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Brandon J Fiedor


Wed Apr 18, 2007 9:39 pm
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I absolutely agree with Erin. We have to be able to recognize signs that students portray when or if they are ever feeling like the shooter at Virginia Tech. I am slightly scared about going into this profession. But the thing is, it can happen anywhere and everything happens for a reason. You cannot always tell when students are feeling what we consider mentally unstable. All I can say is be on the lookout for things going on in your classroom such as bullying, teasing, outcasts, students with family problems, etc.

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Jessie Carrigan


Wed Apr 18, 2007 11:58 pm
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Two weeks ago we were sitting in my history class. A student became very agitated and starting arguing with the teacher. He became irate and the professor was being quite flip about what was being said. Everyone in the class was kind of giggling and talking to their neighbor. The student left the room and slammed the door. We laughed at him and didn't know what to say. A minute later, we were informed that the whole thing had been set up for a Sociology class to see how people reacted to these types of situations. When he left, the people joked that they thought he was going to shoot. We all laughed. My professor said that they have the lecturns because they are bulletproof and that's what he ducks behind when students get mad. That was funny last week... it's not funny this week.
I don't think that I was conscious about what I said in regards to others feelings like I should have been. The situations that we are facing can't be laughed at anymore; it just makes the problem worse. As a teacher, how do I make situations, students, okay? What do you say?

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Lesley Paige de Paoli


Fri Apr 20, 2007 5:00 pm
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In reading all of your responses, first I would like to say thanks for sharing your feelings on this in such a thoughtful and critical way. It is a relief after the media frenzy of blame and seemingly endless hunger to sensationalize our darkest moments in America. As future educators AND current college students, we cannot help but take this incident to heart on many, many levels.
Next, I would like to say that while the answers to most of these questions are "I don't know" and we may feel powerless to change the way things are, Brandon brought up a really good point, and one that I think our whole course is aimed towards. Our schools are a reflection of society as a whole. While strict gun control, a plan-of-action for the VT campus, or more careful psychological screening might have perhaps changed the outcome, I think that these are all superficial, sugar-coated responses to larger issues that we love to criticize but can rarely motivate to revolutionize. I don't have the answers, but I don't think that things like this will change until we become more responsible, and stop using social change as a political platform rather than a real, genuine concern for our families, friends and neighbors.

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Sun Apr 22, 2007 2:11 am
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Good point Brandon. you were proven correct three days after the VT massacre when an older man took two hostages at the Johnson Space center in Texas, killed one and then himself.
even more scary, the day after VT 158 people died in Iraq as a result of four simultaneous car bombs in city squares. The magnitude of that is incomprehensible, the same as the VT madness.
At North Meck high a student took his own life three days after VT. He pulled a gun on his ex girlfriend in the parking lot. The cops shut down the school and chased the 16 year old kid in his car. he got out at a gas station and killed himself.
A buddy of mine took his own life by jumping in front of a train two weeks ago at Elon.
goodness gracious. i sure hope positive minded individuals like our class can work towards a brighter future for us all.

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Samuel Reeve Kirkpatrick


Wed Apr 25, 2007 11:32 am
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