This is my classroom

This is my classroom.

I've spent copious time cultivating a safe, comfortable, inclusive environment within these four walls. I hung curtains on the windows for a homey look. My desks are arranged for conversation. I have rugs and throw pillows so my students can comfortably read and write if they wish to get out from behind their desks. I have lamps throughout the room to provide a tad more lighting (or the sole lighting when they want to work with the overhead lights off). I purchase plug-in refills from Yankee Candle so my room smells nice. I have bookshelves filled with literature my kids can check out from me—literature that is diverse, literature in which all of my students can see themselves. I have baskets on each table that house sticky notes, glue, scissors, and highlighters for convenience. I constantly refill my pencil drawer so no student feels they don't have what they need to succeed. I (almost) always have tissues, a necessity during this nasty flu season.

But you know what? None of that would matter to a monster whose sole mission is to end lives.

I've avoided this subject for a few reasons, all of which boil down to fear. Fear of speaking these words, because it makes them feel all the more real and possible. Fear of sparking a contentious debate among my friends and family who disagree. Fear of repercussions for speaking my mind, or really, speaking my heart.

But I can't be silent anymore.

When I heard the news—that there had been yet another school shooting, this time in Parkland, Florida—I felt as though my heart had dropped into my stomach and burst into a million little pieces. I felt sick. Any teacher would tell you the same thing. I often think about our lockdown procedures and how I would protect my students should we ever, God forbid, be in the same situation. I have to think about these things because unfortunately, this is our new reality.

I even saw my students' generation labeled "the school shooting generation." SERIOUSLY? Are we that complicit that we've named this generation based on a horrific epidemic they did not ask for?

I am not going to sit here and claim I have all the answers, because I don't. But what I do know is that something must be done; it's time for the lawmakers we vote into office to take action instead of bicker back and forth about which side is wrong and which side is right. Because while they sit comfortably in their offices, tweeting that it's time for something to be done (or not the time, depending on who is speaking) kids are grieving. Kids are hurting. Kids are reliving the haunting images of their peers and teachers losing their lives in the blink of an eye, right in front of them, all while absolutely nothing is done to stop further atrocities from occurring in schools just like theirs.

I've seen many label this solely a mental health issue, and if you fall in that camp, I urge you to seriously take a look at that claim and consider this: it is incredibly simplistic to look at this issue from that angle. I know plenty of beautiful, kind, courageous human beings who suffer from mental health issues who would never dream of carrying out an act like we saw in Parkland...or Sutherland Springs...or Las Vegas...or Newtown...or Columbine. This stigma that people who suffer from mental illness are the root of our problems further casts the divide between these souls and those who blame them, further alienating them, only adding to their suffering.

I also think it's simple-minded to think these tragedies boil down to one issue and not another (or many others). I've seen people claim this is a parenting issue, and while I whole-heartedly agree in some respects, it's irresponsible to pin this solely on parents, and it's equally irresponsible to think that it's possible to fix a parenting issue. That's like saying it's possible to alleviate the number of car accidents by attempting to train people to be better drivers. Unfortunately, that's just not going to happen because there will always be outliers, and in this case, many, many outliers.

When it comes down to it, these conversations are not mutually exclusive; we can talk about tightening gun laws simply to stop innocent lives from being taken by assault rifles that are meant for taking many lives at once, meanwhile discussing ways to reform mental health care so those who are suffering are offered the help they need.

And if you're still struggling to see this as a gun issue, please consider this: if you mean no harm on society by using your gun, what's a few more hurdles to jump through if it means innocent children—your children, your family—will be safer while they sit in a classroom and learn?

I urge you to please, please think about the classroom you see above, and how 17 innocent lives sat in a classroom just like mine on Wednesday, only to never leave. We need to do better. We need to be better. Our kids deserve that much, don't they?