Usually I post screenshots. But I decided to type this post, so that I could add emphasis.
Though I'm no longer a fulltime teacher, I have been teaching in some capacity for the past 24 years. I still think of myself as a teacher, though it doesn't occupy nearly as much of my professional life as it once did.
I don't have children, though I care fiercely for them, in part because I've spent so many years focused on their development. Many people dismiss that sentiment because I'm not a parent. That was part of what compelled me to post this, after the Parkland shooting:
People who choose professions where death is a possibility are heroes. Like firefighters.
But what about people who choose a profession where death shouldn’t be a possibility—and yet it still is? With increasing frequency.
Columbine happened when I was in undergrad. At that time, my professional aspirations were focused on teaching. I saw Columbine as an anomaly. Definitely not a serious concern in my career path.
Years later, I was teaching part-time when Virginia Tech happened. I remember thinking, for the first time, what I would have done in that situation. I visualized classrooms where I’d worked. I thought about finding exits, breaking windows, trying to keep students safe. But I still regarded the possibility as beyond remote.
By the way, did you know that one of the dead at Virginia Tech was a Holocaust survivor? A professor, who survived the fucking Nazis and all the horror they inflicted, later to hold a door shut, a door that didn’t lock, shouting to his students to hurry as they escaped through the windows. Bullets pierced the door; he was gunned down in his own classroom. He survived the fucking Nazis for this.
When Sandy Hook happened, I was no longer teaching in classrooms. But the job possibility was still on my mind. I was watching job postings, hoping the right teaching position would appear. But after Sandy Hook, witnessing the increasing frequency of school shootings and recognizing the unlikelihood of change, I re-evaluated my will to teach. School shootings are not the anomaly I first believed them to be.
So I had to ask myself—was I willing to protect my students if we were caught in a shooting? I again visualized classrooms, exits. I thought about what to do and say. I weighed the merits of having conversations or drills in advance. I’m not the only one thinking this way. We’ve all seen the ads for the panels to make backpacks bulletproof.
All this to ask—are you willing to die for other people’s children? Children who aren’t related to you? Children you may not know that well, or even like exceedingly much, in some cases.
If you have children, are you willing for them to lose a parent, in order to protect other children? If you are a parent, have you considered that your child(ren)’s teacher(s) are willing to do this for you?
Over the years, our society has shown not to care much about the body count of children gunned down at schools. So I don’t expect much care for the lower body count of teachers. But you can see the cowardice—perhaps your own—of those who don’t advocate for change, who refuse to have a nuanced discussion, while other people stand in the line of fire.
There were a lot of comments and shares. Many people (who aren't teachers) remarked that they had never considered this perspective.
I wanted to share some responses from teachers:
I will protect my babies by all means necessary. Your reflection is the exact reason I left the high school classroom. Now, I send all my love and energy into the babies. The toddler age is so ripe and the love is pure. Although not financially rewarding, I've learned and cultivated a comfortable life for me and my family and that means the world to me. Although, now I worry about my husband who works at [school name retracted]. I pray a covering over my family and friends.
~ current teacher & former administrator, over 10 years of experience in education
Agreed. If I ever return to a classroom, it'll be at a preschool, where the students are not old enough to have the angst or the motor skills to operate a weapon.
You are spot on. Thank you. I will no longer give my money, my time, or my life for someone else’s child when they can’t even come to a parent conference, assist with a behavioral concern, or even pick them up on time. Our society is in a very bad place.
~ current elementary teacher, over 25 years of experience in education
There's that too—the fact that teachers are undervalued in basically every way. Not just money, but respect and consideration. Tell me again why doctors and lawyers are so revered, but not teachers?
This was beautifully said. Thank you for speaking out for us. We are too often the forgotten ones. I think about the fact that I may have to die to protect my students every time a school shooting occurs. I think about it even more now because students at [school name retracted] are allowed to carry guns on campus. The reality of a gun-related death is becoming more apparent to me each day.
~ current college professor and PhD candidate, over 10 years of experience in education
Ah yes, campus carry—what an excellent idea! I'm in favor once legislators embrace it for Capitol buildings.
Meanwhile teachers are still on the lowest pay scale and get paid less than wait staff at a fancy restaurant. I was a middle school art teacher for 9 years... (practically right down the road from Sandy Hook, I retired early the year before that tragedy happened) I went through those drills every fucking year. You also have to deal with the decision that if a student is caught outside in the hallway coming back from the bathroom you have to use your own judgement as to whether or not you open the door to let that one child in and risk all 20 kids lives in the class hiding from the man holding the gun because the gunman could be hiding right beside that child. I’m completely disgusted with our country right now and my answer to all of those questions you posed is a big fat NO. Because guess what - many of those parents voted for 45 and he’s taken away some major safety precautions of being able to buy an AR 15 with a phdychological disability. So, thank you for reminding me that I didn’t pay for a $36k master’s degree to put myself on the front lines. My heart does go out to those who make that decision every day they wake up.
~ former teacher, over 10 years of experience in education
So many scenarios you can consider as a teacher. What if a random shooter shows up at this playground? How many children can I warn and how fast can they run? How many windows are in this classroom? Does this door lock? What if the shooter... What about the kids...
You get the idea.
Well said and thank you!!!! 15 years ago when I started teaching, it wasn’t something you thought about - we may have had 1 intruder drill in the whole year- more tornado and fire drills. Now, the intruder drills are much more important. Our elementary school students practice that drill more than writing their name. When I was working at the front desk of a school, the other woman there with me would often talk about it- we were the front lines of the possible battle if all doors were closed and the shooter came in with the students - We were the two that needed to deliver the code red to all the teachers and call 911 if we could- our swiftness could possibly save lives but here we are behind glass doors,no tactical training or emotional counseling training, no weapons and still, the first lines of action fall on us— a new mom and a woman 3 years away from retirement.
Now infantrymen-what the heck? Every time someone held the door open and multiple people entered, the worry and wonder - "Is it one? Is today my last day?” Always looking for the intercom and a way out to alert the little ones and their teachers. We felt like sitting ducks and it shouldn’t have been that way - it was often more stressful than teaching in the classroom. As teachers, we used to only worry at the most with what to do if a fight breaks out but now worrying about what to do if there is a fight with a firearm or if an active shooter is present adds to your daily stress.
We weren’t all advocates of having firearms but maybe more increased school security officers. They already have the training needed and they carry a weapon - if we can pay for all teachers to have firearms and training, we could easily pay for increased trained professionals for our safety. Most schools with a population of 1600 kids get 1 or 2 officers.. But that would make sense... We need to update schools for better in/out procedures, update the building technology and of course, overall education. Teaching the value of human life for instance , having counselors and teachers work together to identify behaviors and lone students but in order to do that we’d have to decrease class sizes. 20 students might have a better chance at getting to safety than 36. We don’t need mega schools- just smaller neighborhood schools so you can actually feel like a community. I don’t have all the answers but I’d like to know that I could do my job in a safer space. Society asks how can we be safer but in order to do that we have to figure out why schools are easy targets...
~ current teacher, over 15 years of experience in education
Children practicing intruder drills more than writing their names. More than writing their names.
This is conducive neither to education nor childhood. And "the first lines of action" falling on people without training and resources—for a job that, at least theoretically, requires a different skill set.
A couple takeaways—
Perhaps some perspectives you haven't yet considered. Ideas that are worth your time to digest as this debate continues.
Listen to teachers. Lots of people lacking relevant experience—like the many legislators who have never worked in schools—make a lot of noise. Pay attention to the people who are in the muck of this. Uplift their voices and help them do their jobs.
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