“The last couple of years have been a hot mess.”

True words spoken by a 16-year-old student a short time ago. While some folks may not relate to this trendy term of “hot mess,” the gravity of the sentiment resonates with almost all of us.

The rough emotional environment

I am a high school teacher. Mentoring, counseling, coaching, guiding, and cheering on kiddos in the classroom have been skills I have cultivated professionally and personally for my entire career.

But only recently have I needed to truly combine my superpowers as a strong pillar of support for the teenagers around me. I have struggled this year alongside students as our society continues to navigate the upheaval of all that we have known to be true.

Because I do not teach in an environment naive to cultural influences, and because teenagers do not learn in a setting devoid of societal pressures, I often take on the role of an emotional weathervane for them. They look to me for signs of calm and potential disruptions, much like the rooftop gauge indicating the course of the wind.

Tipping towards involvement

I think of my tipping point in the context of a weathervane in a storm. Trying to track the shooting events in our country has manipulated any sense of direction, resulting in a constant state of spinning. Emotional, financial and spiritual reconciliation by way of the weathervane has been exhausting.

For me, questions of “how much?” and “how to?” related to gun violence prevention have fluctuated until recently. “How much” can I give to these efforts? What level of involvement is viable and meaningful? “How to” support gun violence prevention? What tangible activities result in consequential change?

Answers differ dramatically by individual and by circumstance, but my personal investment has lately become strong and sustainable. I will go on serving students and families by navigating the winds and facilitating difficult conversations as they arise.

I will also trust my own tracking system. While the weathervane continues to reflect impending storms, I am now learning to watch and listen for signs of change.

Debbie Loomis is the mother of two adult children. She is a former community organizer and now teaches middle and high school students in San Diego County.

photo credit: liz west

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