One teacher’s brilliant strategy to stop future school shootings -- and it’s not about guns

A few weeks ago, I went into my son Chase’s class for 
tutoring. I’d e-mailed Chase’s teacher one evening and said, “Chase keeps telling me that this stuff you’re sending home 
is math—but I’m not sure I believe him. Help, please.” She 
e-mailed right back and said, “No problem! I can tutor Chase after school anytime.” And I said, “No, not him. Me. He gets it. Help me.”

And that’s how I ended up standing at a chalkboard in an empty fifth-grade classroom while Chase’s teacher sat behind me, using a soothing voice to try to help me understand the “new way we teach long division.” Luckily for me, I didn’t 
have to unlearn much because I’d never really understood 
the “old way we taught long division.” It took me a solid hour to complete one problem, but I could tell that Chase’s teacher liked me anyway. She used to work with NASA, so obviously 
we have a whole lot in common.

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Vigils held after deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida
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Vigils held after deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida
People attend a candlelight vigil the day after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
Students mourn during a community prayer vigil for victims of yesterday's shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, at Parkridge Church in Pompano Beach, Florida, U.S., February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
A woman lights a candle during a vigil for victims of yesterday's shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Residents attend a candlelight vigil the day after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
A man reacts during a candlelight vigil for victims of yesterday's shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Daniel Journey (C), an 18-year-old senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, attends a community prayer vigil for victims of yesterday's shooting at his school, at Parkridge Church in Pompano Beach, Florida, U.S., February 15, 2018. Journey said he lost two friends he had known and grown up with since they were seven years old in the shooting. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
A handwritten note to a lost friend is surrounded by candles and flowers at a candlelight vigil the day after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
A student places a candle with other tributes at a vigil the day after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
Mourners react during a community prayer vigil for victims of yesterday's shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, at Parkridge Church in Pompano Beach, Florida, U.S., February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People attend a candlelight vigil for victims of yesterday's shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Mourners react during a community prayer vigil for victims of yesterday's shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, at Parkridge Church in Pompano Beach, Florida, U.S., February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
A student rests his head against his mother as they attend a community prayer vigil for victims of yesterday's shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, at Parkridge Church in Pompano Beach, Florida, U.S., February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
People attend a candlelight vigil for victims of yesterday's shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Students mourn at a community prayer vigil for victims of yesterday's shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, at Parkridge Church in Pompano Beach, Florida, U.S., February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
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Afterward, we sat for a few minutes and talked about 
teaching children and what a sacred trust and responsibility 
it is. We agreed that subjects like math and reading are not the most important things that are learned in a classroom. 
We talked about shaping little hearts to become contributors to a larger community—and we discussed our mutual dream that those communities might be made up of individuals 
who are kind and brave above all.

And then she told me this.

Every Friday afternoon, she asks her students to take out a piece of paper and write down the names of four children with whom they’d like to sit the following week. The children know that these requests may or may not be honored. She also asks the students to nominate one student who they believe has been an 
exceptional classroom citizen that week. All ballots are privately submitted to her.

And every single Friday afternoon, after the students go home, she takes out those slips of paper, places them in front of her, and studies them. 
She looks for patterns.

Who is not getting requested by anyone else?

Who can’t think of anyone to 
request?

Who never gets noticed enough 
to be nominated?

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We owe it to our children and our teachers to keep them safe while at school. Prayers won't do this: action will. C… https://t.co/0KGNfJSour
No words, no actions, no laws are enough until we end this epidemic of school shootings in our country. My heart is… https://t.co/tjXGNhDN4e
Just heard the tragic news about Florida. My heart breaks for the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.… https://t.co/0fHsqfWGky
Heard the word “tragedy” 100 times already about the school shooting - not really, by the classical definition: tra… https://t.co/asfO6NFmkz
Heartbroken over the news of another school shooting. This is the 18th in 45 days of 2018. Students & teachers shou… https://t.co/MLgvZc3eFq
We have to elect candidates that are not funded by the NRA in November. We have an opportunity to elect candidates… https://t.co/e8S52nHVZW
It’s so easy these days to just scroll by a story like this. But this is developing and we should pay attention. Th… https://t.co/RgxgC5ZEuj
Prayers without accordant action are silent lies told to oneself, heard by no God, amounting to nothing. Action is… https://t.co/6nscffCxJ4
No words. Waking up to this awful news from a world away. My heart hurts.
I’m an actor with limited political knowledge. There are things I don’t understand. But I‘ve been trying to imagine… https://t.co/sTg6nvQQJO
Another horrific school shooting in America. Yet more young lives destroyed. Why is nothing EVER done to even TRY t… https://t.co/WsBO4tqAza
And on this day that we should be celebrating love, my beloved Florida is once again assaulted by gun violence. Ye… https://t.co/aRzKiqf34N
It is clear now more than ever that something must be done to stop these violent and horrific acts--my heart goes o… https://t.co/0yxTG6XOfB
As we send our thoughts & prayers to the people of Parkland, Florida how about we, the people & govt of America, ac… https://t.co/rR8HFlnZeg
19th school shooting of a year less than two months long. This one on my home town in my home state. How many kids… https://t.co/wkUHvVqyZE
Oh Florida, Oh America. Rivers of tears and sorrow caused by men that fear a reality they created. Our hearts are s… https://t.co/UImt0k1Da2
#PrayersforFlorida My heart breaks for all those affected by this tragedy. https://t.co/Ij1QjJsx6Q
If you are not willing to re-examine and renegotiate our relationship to guns and violence, you are a culprit and a… https://t.co/kxbvymQ2SW
Broward school shooting--There will be prayers from Blabbermouth Don, Pence the Grinch, and their rightwing cohorts… https://t.co/rfySOFaB6X
America 2018. And a Republican led Congress has done and will do nothing.
Like thousands in South Florida, we sent the boys to school in Broward County this morning... there are no words to… https://t.co/wsVhErOoHb
Sending all my love and prayers to the families affected in Florida. More lives lost due to gun violence.. I don’t… https://t.co/jXFlHksFTV
WHEN WILL IT BE ENOUGH?! GUN CONTROL IS NEEDED NOW. WE ARE ALL FUCKING TIRED &HEARTBROKEN FOR MORE INNOCENT LIVES L… https://t.co/ra6JCu8PKd
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Who had a million friends last week and none this week?

You see, Chase’s teacher is not looking for a new seating chart or “exceptional citizens.” Chase’s teacher is looking for lonely children. She’s looking for children who are struggling to connect with other children. She’s identifying the little ones who are falling through the cracks of the class’s social life. She is discovering whose gifts are going unnoticed 
by their peers. And she’s pinning down—right away—who’s being bullied and who is doing the bullying.

As a teacher, parent, and lover of all children, I think this is the most brilliant Love Ninja strategy I have ever 
encountered. It’s like taking an X-ray of a classroom to see 
beneath the surface 
of things and into the hearts of students. 
It is like mining for gold—the gold being those children who need a little help, who need adults to step in and teach them how to make friends, how to ask others to play, how to 
join a group, or how to share their gifts. And it’s a bully deterrent 
because every teacher knows that bullying usually happens outside her eyeshot and that often kids being bullied are too intimidated to share. But, as she said, the truth comes out on those safe, private, little sheets 
of paper.

As Chase’s teacher explained 
this simple, ingenious idea, I stared at her with my mouth hanging open. “How long have you been using this system?” I said.

Ever since Columbine, she said. Every single Friday afternoon since Columbine. Good Lord.

This brilliant woman watched 
Columbine knowing that all violence begins with disconnection. All outward violence begins as inner loneliness. Who are our next mass shooters and how do we stop them? She watched that tragedy knowing that children who aren’t being noticed may eventually resort to being noticed by any means necessary.

And so she decided to start fighting violence early and often in the world within her reach. What Chase’s teacher 
is doing when she sits in her empty classroom studying those lists written with shaky 11-year-old hands is saving lives. I am convinced of it.

And what this mathematician 
has learned while using this system is something she really already knew: that everything—even love, even 
belonging—has a pattern to it. She finds the patterns, and through those lists she breaks the codes of disconnection. Then she gets lonely kids the help they need. It’s math to her. It’s math.

All is love—even math. Amazing.

What a way to spend a life: looking for patterns of love and loneliness. Stepping in, every single day, and 
altering the trajectory of our world.

Glennon Doyle Melton writes the popular blog momastery.com and is the author of Carry On, Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life.

The post One Teacher’s Brilliant Strategy to Stop Future School Shootings—And It’s Not About Guns appeared first on Reader's Digest.

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