Navigating the reality of school shootings as a teacher and a mom
Students returned to class at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School in St. Louis City yesterday for the first time since a deadly shooting closed the school last October.
Evan Holden is a student at the University of Missouri who graduated from the St. Louis Public School District, and his mom, Colette Morton is still a literature teacher there.
They sat down recently and spoke about how the reality of school-based gun violence has impacted their relationship.
Colette Morton: I think you've always done that's a possibility, haven't you?
Evan Holden: Probably. I don't know if there was any, like, one talk that we had, but I think it was just like – as these things happened along with like intruder drills and stuff like that – I think it was just kind of a conversation that happened over multiple years.
Colette: I will say that I think my husband who teaches alternative school has probably talked to you way more about gun violence than I have, and it's affected him way more than it has me. It's been recently that it affected me.
And like 23 years ago, I felt very safe. Even five years ago, I felt really safe. I just, it's really hard for me when people glorify weapons and guns because I don't think they see the full outcome of what it can do.
"Society isn't doing anything on their end, but we're expected to keep giving of ourselves."Colette Morton
And again, my job is to teach literature. Like, I just want to teach Chris McCandless, right? I want to listen to their funny problems about who they like and teenage stuff. I don't want to be a human shield.
And I don't know too many teachers that want to do that, and they do it, but I don't know if it's instinct or what? But I just, I'm five feet tall, I can't imagine saving people, and that makes me not probably the best teacher. But…
Evan: I wouldn't say that because I don't think anyone ever – even probably some people now trying to get into the teaching profession would say, “Yeah, I'm willing to like sacrifice my life for this profession” because that's not the job that you were like told about, that you were kind of promised and stuff like that like.
Colette: But I do think they're eroding away the teacher’s “person.” I don't know how to put it, but we're expected to go to football games when we're not getting paid and we're expected to spend our own money on things and we can't leave as soon as the bell rings, we have to stay for hours on end. We give ourselves up completely, and so it's not that big of a jump for society then to expect us to save kids on top of that.
And society isn't doing anything on their end, but we're expected to keep giving of ourselves. Does that make sense?
I mean, I don't mind spending money on my students, right? Like I buy tons of books, supplies, and I love that. I just, I can't give myself up. I love my kid a lot. We just went on vacation together just, you know, because we could, right?
Colette: Like I actually like my kid. Like he's fun. And I don’t, I'm not ready to leave that. Like I want to see all the stuff that he's going to do and accomplish and not accomplish and all your failures, everything, all of it, and I can't do that if I'm trying to fix societal problems.
And they really have to step up and do something. We just keep moving the same way.