Hope gives English teacher, Patrick Martin, a voice

Alexis Perry, Assistant Website Editor

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He was a man with something to say.

He was just a teacher with an idea, with hope.

He spoke words that one turns to when it seems as though everyone is running around with their heads cut off,
unsure of what to do.

He wrote a simple speech that was full of life and buzzed with passionate energy. It was all about ending political bickering and finding common sense solutions. It took off.

This speech breathed life into what would become Patrick Martin’s Safe School Project.

He saw a lack of teacher representation in government policies that had direct impacts on schools and school safety. He began to speak out more vehemently when South Carolina’s governor said that teachers should be armed. His response is reflective of the project he has created.

“I thought whatever they decide, they should ask teachers before they make statements like that” Martin said.

This project is a tool for teacher voice. Right now it is a growing network of about 100 members across 30 different schools in Charleston County who want to be involved in school policy, specifically regarding school safety.

“I think teachers at least deserve the respect of at least being consulted with these broad ideas about policy before talking about them,”Martin said.

I think teachers at least deserve the respect of at least being consulted with these broad ideas about policy before talking about them”

— Patrick Martin, English Teacher

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“And then also I had a student in my class last year who had transferred from Parkland just a few months before the shooting, and so I literally saw the impact on her personally, and it kind of brought a whole bunch of stuff about my career to fruition, like my first year teaching was the year of Columbine… and then my daughter was in Kindergarten when New Town happened.”

Gun violence in our schools has shaken up our nation, and its effects can be seen in politics and in our very own school. It has affected us all, including Martin in both painful and subtle ways. For example, Wando added new security doors as added barrier.

“I think at Wando we are lucky, we have a gate, we have our new vestibule at the front of our school so people can’t just come in. So I think at Wando we are lucky but I definitely just wonder ‘Are all the schools as safe as ours?’” Teacher Whitney Windsor said.

For those working in or attending school, it is one the back of their minds and at the tip of their tongues. Martin believes in what he calls common sense solutions, which becomes evident when he talks about what he thinks would alleviate the intensity of this growing problem.

“I think the best thing would be communication and education. I think we need to talk about guns and gun violence in our classes. I think the same way we have Sex Ed classes and the way in English class we might read a short story about racism or any other issues of social importance, gun violence needs to be right in there with them. So I would like to see in part of the curriculum and then the biggest thing I think we can do to make change would be to have more licensed psychologists on our campus” Martin said.

Before that can happen teacher voices need to be a part if the discussion. Because of this Martin has been cultivating and developing a strong network for the Safe Schools Project.

“Ideally what we would have is a person in each school in CCSD and we would have different level representatives, we already have a middle level representative here in Mount Pleasant from Cario so now we are looking for representation from Downtown, North Charleston, and then West Ashley and then we will have people in charge of High Schools, Elementary and Middle.” He said,“I’ve been working with a lot of politicians this summer, and they say if we show up in numbers then they will listen. So then if something comes up and we want to support, all I have to do is say ‘Hey, we all need to go to the State House this Saturday, and we need to be there 100 of us and just say this is important for our students.’ So that’s my vision.”

To put his vision into action he created a network for teachers to communicate and rally for change.

“Mr. Martin has done a really great job of reaching out to teachers at different schools to find out what are their concerns, what is going on at their schools, and he’s been in touch with the head of security at the school district and spoken to him in getting ideas from the teachers and taking them up to the school district so that we can be like a liaison” Windsor said.

Through this project Martin was contacted by MTV, and they did a story on what his project means, and what it means to him and other teachers who are involved. To keep along with Martin’s ideals, they kept it out of politics.

“So MTV News was coming to Charleston to film the Road to Change Tour in Town Hall and be a part of that so a separate little piece that they wanted to do was they wanted to kind of get perspective from teachers as how we saw schools and the safety in the schools and kind of how we felt. So they wanted to do a separate piece so they contacted Mr. Martin who then reached out to the teachers in the Safe Schools Project to see if anyone would be interested in talking to MTV News about it.” Windsor said.

Martin’s project speaks for teacher voice, not for teacher agreement. He acknowledges that there are thousands of teachers, with ranging opinions that may or may not align with his own. He isn’t searching for a complete consensus, he is searching for common sense solutions that the majority stand behind.

Martin understands how people can have these ranging opinions. He grew up hunting, he grew up with guns in his house

It is hard to create change when problems become partisan. That is why Martin feels it is detrimental to keep politics out of school safety, because then everyone remains unsafe and our country becomes more divided. People want an easy solution that appeals to their party, but that isn’t realistic

“People want to make things so simple and they’re really not,” he said.