Teacher Responds to Tragedy in Highlands Ranch

Mr. Ryan Johnson, Guest Contributor, Doherty Science Department

Hey everyone…pardon me for a moment, I’ve been feeling a lot of things today and wanted to share some of them with you all, in the hopes that it can help someone.

I REALLY love our students. I came to work this morning feeling afraid, upset, distracted, and heartbroken over yesterday’s shooting at STEM Academy in Highlands Ranch. I have friends who teach there and was in contact with them last night, and really have been feeling their pain. I honestly struggled with coming to work today and almost didn’t, to go be with them or just process my own feelings, but am glad that I didn’t. While I still feel uneasy and anxious, just sitting down with each of my classes today and talking frankly and openly about their feelings and mine and some coping strategies, it went a really long way to help them and me.

While it’s a stressful time for us teachers, make sure we don’t forget that it’s also very stressful for our kids. Be sensitive to their needs, their difficult behaviors, and their frustrations. It might just be them trying to work through their emotions and stresses. Let them know that you’re available for venting, talking, or just sharing a silly joke together. That your room is a safe place, at least emotionally, even though it feels sometimes that no place is safe in this world. I wonder if the perpetrators in yesterday’s shooting knew that simple fact from someone…that they had a place where they could go to express pain, frustration, stress, and hurt. And if that would’ve made a difference.

While we’re teachers of content, we’re also (and more importantly!) teachers of character, morals, and behavior. If we don’t cope healthily with stress in our classrooms and our lives, our students will see it. And that’s *OK*! But be honest and communicative about it. Communicate your fears and your shortcomings. Be open. I freely admit that I suck about being on top of grading this time of year with my kids…haha. If students see that it’s *ok* to struggle sometimes, that it’s *ok* to be afraid or to be stressed, and that there are ways of handling those emotions without acting out destructively, perhaps we can help. It’s more than an optional part of our job, it’s *crucial*.

I hope you’re all doing ok and having a good day. And if not, tell someone. Reach out. Don’t be shy. I’ll gladly chat with you and hear about whatever it is you’re struggling with. But ultimately, just teach love to our kids. Love the crap out of them. Show them you care, even when the going gets tough and you’re ready to scream at them about being on their phones for the umpteenth time. Just love them.


Ryan Johnson