I Am The Son of a School Teacher in the Age of Mass Shootings in America.

I have been mentally preparing for there to be a mass shooting at the school my mom teaches at since December 14, 2012. That was the day that an active shooter broke onto the campus at Sandy Hook Elementary School and took the lives of 20 innocent children and six adult teachers and staff members. As a nation, we gathered around our televisions and our computer screens, and we declared that enough was enough.I am the son of a school teacher in the age of mass shootings in America.

Last night I was relaxing in my New York apartment, thousands of miles away from my mother who is a middle school teacher in Northern California. I was watching a Netflix comedy special like I love to do on Monday nights after work, and I was scrolling through my Twitter and Facebook pages, enjoying my air-conditioned bedroom on a day that had been hot and humid.

As I scrolled, I started to see articles pop up from local news sources from my small hometown, all with headlines that claimed there had been a threat of a mass shooting at the school where my mom teaches junior high technology. My absolute greatest nightmare.

It turns out that one of the school’s 7th graders had sent a message through Snapchat about planning a mass shooting, where he said he was going to kill at least 30 people on the last day of school. From there, the FBI got involved, visited the boy’s house, and decided to take him to the local juvenile detention center. Nobody had been hurt, and as it stands, we still don't know if the kid had a real plan or access to the several guns in his home.

Even so, I froze as I read the article. I quickly skimmed through the words trying to make sense of what happened. Everything seemed to be telling me that my mom was in danger, and I lost control of my thoughts. I lost control of my emotions. I found myself at a loss for everything that wasn’t tears and absolute dread. The article clearly stated that nobody had been hurt and that the kid had been taken into custody, but I still couldn’t handle the thought of it. I couldn’t handle it because losing my mom in one of the many mass school shootings we see on a more-than-monthly basis in this country would be to lose everything I have, and everything I am.

I immediately texted my mom who calmly gave me more details about the situation, told me she was safe, that she was in good hands, and that she loves me.

My worst nightmare had just tapped me on the shoulder, and I couldn’t pull myself together. I cried for hours, and I couldn’t fall asleep until two in the morning.

I am the son of a school teacher in the age of mass shootings in America, and that means that losing my mother to senseless gun violence is not only my greatest fear—it’s an extremely likely reality.

When a mass shooting happens at American schools, our nation's leaders send their thoughts, they send their prayers, and they tell us to hold our children a little bit closer tonight. We mourn the loss of hundreds of children who are losing their lives, their futures, their potential to live the lives they’ve dreamed of.

There are two parts of the headline from the Sandy Hook Massacre. The first part is that twenty beautiful and innocent children lost their lives to a gunman who intruded on their elementary school. The second part is that there were six teachers and staff members who were also killed. There were six teachers and staff members at the school who were killed probably frantically doing everything they could think of to control the situation, to protect the school’s children, and to save as many lives as they could.

School shootings happen so often in the United States these days that news sites like CNN have dedicated pages likethis to keep a running count of shootings we’ve had just this year. According to the linked page, there has been, on average, about one school shooting per week in the United States in 2018 so far, for a total of 23 shootings by the start of June this year. In fact, according to the same page, there have been 15 shootings at schools since the February 14th Parkland High School shooting on that launched the #NeverAgain movement and the March for Our Lives.

On May 18th, there was a shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas, and a student told news outlets that she always kind of felt like a mass shooting would ‘eventually happen’ at her school since it’s been happening so often. I agree and I feel the same way about something like that happening at my mom's school. I think about it almost every single day.

I am the son of a school teacher in the age of mass shootings in America, and I want to tell you about my mom.

My mom works at a middle school where she teaches technology to young kids from our community. She shows 6th graders, 7th graders, and 8th graders how to use technology to boost their creativity, productivity, communication, and responsibility. She spends her nights writing grants and proposals to raise money to get really cool things like 3D printers, laser cutters, video cameras, microphones, and other devices to help inspire kids and help them find their passions, the paths they want to take in life, and she connects them to opportunities that will help them grow into the awesome adults she knows they can be. Her students just adore her and they love her classroom.

In the summers, my mom runs a camp that she started for girls who want to learn about robotics. She cares about creating an environment where young girls feel empowered to learn about technology. On the weekends, she flies around the country to speak at conferences and inspire other teachers about using technology in the classroom to help their students learn.

My mom’s entire mission in life is to develop young lives, help connect young people and young families to great ideas and opportunities, and to build up the next generation of inventors, engineers, authors, artists, and even future teachers.

I am the son of a school teacher who has touched thousands of lives and has asked for nothing in return.

Growing up, my siblings and I knew that we shared my mom’s love and focus with the families of the students she taught. Everyone in town knew my mom from the time I was very young. We all thought she was famous. Every time our family would go to the grocery store, or to the movies, or community events, young kids would come running up to my mom yelling, “Mrs. Hawes, Mrs. Hawes, Mrs. Hawes!”

Their faces lit up like entire galaxies when they saw her out in public and they could barely even wait to introduce her to their parents, their grandparents, their aunts and uncles, and anyone else who was around to meet “their favorite teacher, Mrs. Hawes.” It was just part of being out and about with my mom.

My friends at school would always ask me what it was like to have a teacher as a mom. I would sigh and tell them it was just awful because she always made me do my homework right when I got home; she made me read books, even in the summer; and no matter what, she always took my teacher’s side when there was a disagreement. I felt like I couldn’t get away with anything, ever.

I’m writing this as I sit in an empty Starbucks after work on the week of my 26th birthday. I am now an adult, and it is only now that I realize and understand how powerful a gift it was to have been raised by my mother,  who was also a teacher who made me read books, even in the summer. It is only now that I can realize and understand that like all moms, she was always right; and like all teachers, she just wanted the best for the children and the families of the community she served. I now realize that the lessons my mom taught me were not just about reading, or doing my homework right when I got home, or coming down on my teacher’s side of a disagreement.

She was teaching me about how I should treat other people, and how I should work really hard to become a positive part of my community and of the world. I am the son of a school teacher has always worked tirelessly to teach those lessons to not only my siblings and me, but to each and every student who walked into her classroom every morning.  

I am the son of a school teacher who is endlessly shaping the minds of children who are not even her own.

I understood at a very young age that my mom cared deeply about developing our community and helping to build the next generation of citizens. My mom has always known the difference between right and wrong and she has always cared about things like hard work, character, and manners. She has always worked really hard to teach her students to be polite and respectful of each other.

My mom is known for the creative ways that she teaches manners. She can't do this anymore, but for the longest time, she had a glass jar of lemon drop candies that were available to students who asked for one politely. When they were working independently, it was a known classroom rule that you could get up to ask her for a lemon drop as long as you said, “Mrs. Hawes, may I please have a lemon drop?” If you didn't ask nicely, you didn't get a lemon drop. 

She is incredibly patient, and she sees the best in every kid. She cares enough about her students to teach them about discipline, too. She teaches all of her students to think critically and to hold themselves accountable when they mess up. She is the teacher who teaches students about how all actions have consequences, and she teaches them how to genuinely apologize when they hurt someone. 

She also teaches them how to be goofy and light and have a good time when the moment is right. She sometimes harmlessly teases kids and she lets them tease her back as long as it's kind-hearted and appropriate.

My mom is so passionate and she is in love with the work that she does every single day. She is making a huge impact on the students she spends her days with. She loves her job, and she absolutely loves her students. My mom would do almost anything for other people’s children.

I am the son of a school teacher who loves her students almost unconditionally. She might even take a bullet for them. But as her son, I don’t think she should have to.

My mom is a teacher, and I’m eternally proud and inspired by the impact that she has had on our world. She sees people in a beautiful way and I am so impressed with the light that she brings to her students, and to her school, and to the community. I absolutely love that my mom is an awesome teacher for her students.

But she is also just my mom. When I was a baby, she held me until I fell asleep. She sang songs and danced with me as a toddler. She has cheered me on through everything I’ve done, and she’s been there to catch me as I've fallen. When I was 11, someone was bullying me, and we sat on our bench in the yard under the stars and she held me while I cried. She called the school and they fixed it. When I was 17, my beloved dog Chester died, and she came into my room and she told me how sorry she was and she just laid with me on my bed and we cried together. That was the only time she ever let me stay home from school. My mom has always been there for me through my highs and lows, and I am not ready to lose her just yet.

I need her for a few more years. I have big plans in this world. When I’m excited, I want to call home and tell her all about it. I want to write a book one day, and more than anything I want her to read it and tell how much she loved it. When I meet the man I’ll someday marry, I want him to fall in love with her just as hard as I have. I love my mom more than I’ll ever love anything, and to lose her to senseless gun violence would be to lose too much. I don't think I could handle it.

One of the many books that my mom read to me before I could even speak was called “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch. In the book, there is a young mother who rocks her baby son and sings, “I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, As long as I'm living, my baby you'll be.” The boy grows older, and the story follows the two as they age. The mother grows old and becomes so sick that she can’t even finish the song for her son, so the son holds her and sings it back to her.

My mother is not a member of the United States Armed Forces. She is not a spy or an agent in the FBI. She is not a law enforcement officer. She is not even a security guard. She should not have to bring a gun to her classroom. It is not her job and it should not be her responsibility to protect other people’s children from bullets flying across her classroom. She shouldn’t even have to think about it. I am the son of a school teacher in the age of mass shootings in America, and losing my mother to senseless gun violence is not only my greatest fear; it’s an extremely likely reality.

I am asking our leaders, our representatives, and our voters to take action on the epidemic that is gun violence in America. This does not happen in other countries. We as Americans have created this mess and it is our responsibility as Americans to end this. Maybe I don’t personally know the exact answer, and maybe nobody I know does either. But someone does. I believe that this will take work, it will take research, perseverance, focus, and money. But if we, as “the best country in the world,” can’t even protect the children who hold our future in their tiny little hands, and the teachers who are preparing them for the world, then what can we do?

I am turning 26 this year and I have pledged to raise $2,600 for an organization calledEverytown for Gun Safety. The organization uses donations to fund groundbreaking research on gun violence to find evidence-based solutions for our communities and our nation. If this post has landed with you, and you also don’t have the answer, please considerdonating to my fundraiser and sharing it with your friends, family, and other connections. See below to donate. The money will go to an organization that is committed to finding the best answer.

And to Mrs. Hawes, who is a school teacher in the age of mass school shootings, but who is also just my mom: I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, As long as I'm living, my Mommy you'll be.