In the wake of another brutal school shooting, this time in Florida, educators around the nation are revising their plans for handling such disasters. Marissa Schimmoeller, an English teacher and wheelchair user at Delphos Jefferson High School in Allen County, Ohio, found her faith in the world renewed as she began answering her students' questions about the shooting rampage and addressing classroom plans for disaster response and ensuing trauma.
She recounted on Facebook how her students moved her to tears. She was preparing herself to give a hard speech about disaster readiness and how to respond to student questions as classes began for the day.
In her own words:
“Today was really hard for me. Today was the first time I had to teach the day after a mass school shooting. I dreaded facing my students this morning, and as the first students walked in, I began to feel the anxiety pooling in my stomach. I was dreading one, specific question. Soon after class began, a freshman asked me the question I had been dreading since I had heard about the tragedy in Florida.
"Mrs. Schimmoeller," she asked. "What will we do if a shooter comes in your room?"
My stomach sank. I launched into my pre-planned speech about our plan of action. Then, I knew I had to say the harder part: "I want you to know that I care deeply about each and every one of you and that I will do everything I can to protect you. But - being in a wheelchair, I will not be able to protect you the way an able-bodied teacher will. And if there is a chance for you to escape, I want you to go. Do not worry about me. Your safety is my number one priority."
Slowly, quietly, as the words I had said sunk in, another student raised their hand. She said, "Mrs. Schimmoeller, we already talked about it. If anything happens, we are going to carry you."
I lost it. With tears in my eyes as I type this, I want my friends and family to know that I understand that it is hard to find the good in the world, especially after a tragedy like the one that we have watched unfold, but there is good. True goodness. It was found in the hearts of my students today.
Mrs. Schimmoeller found the silver lining that's often hard to see when she discovered the care and concern her students felt for her well-being. It’s easy to get caught up in the negative emotions and fallout that follows a tragedy, and teachers far too often must prepare for the worst, but her experience serves as a reminder to us all that there is good in the world even in such troubled times.