Violence, Schools, Teaching

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As a teacher, I find the intersection of schools and violence particular shattering. I’ve been thinking about the recent shooting in Ohio and how I might address this type of event in my classroom. Two readings come to mind. The first is “Community and Diversity” by Rebekah Nathan. Nathan (whose real name is Cathy Small) is an anthropologist who enrolled as a freshman at her school to study student life. In this particular selection, she traces the gap between the ideals of community and diversity promoted by universities and the realities of how students relate to one another. Bringing this reading to bear on school violence, I think, would highlight some of the stakes in community and diversity in ways that Nathan doesn’t consider. I’d sequence that assignment with Joan Didion’s “After Life,” an essay about Didion’s grief following the loss of her husband. Didion has a particular concept that always resonates for me: the ordinary instant. One moment life is just going along and in the very next, in that simple and ordinary instant, everything changes forever. I’m all too familiar with these moments, though my students are often too young to have experienced them. But it’s a useful concept to apply to school violence. What’s more, by pairing Nathan and Didion, I could encourage students to think about how communities form around grief. More importantly, I could get them to think about how to form communities before the ordinary instant.
About the Author
Barclay Barrios is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Writing Programs at Florida Atlantic University, where he teaches freshman composition and graduate courses in composition methodology and theory, rhetorics of the world wide web, and composing digital identities. He was Director of Instructional Technology at Rutgers University and currently serves on the board of Pedagogy. Barrios is a frequent presenter at professional conferences, and the author of Emerging.