A little over a week ago, on Valentine’s Day, many of us were celebrating a day of love with our sweethearts and our families. In Parkland, FL, a school community was devastated by a school shooting that left seventeen people dead, and dozens more injured.
And while many elected officials predictably chimed in with their standard “our thoughts and prayers go out to this community”, it is clear that something has changed in our country.
Across this country, it is clear that we have had enough. Enough needless, avoidable bloodshed. Enough senseless violence. Enough cowardly inaction. Enough pathetic excuses. Enough.
I didn’t particularly want to talk to my kids about the Parkland shooting, but the news was on in a public place the other day, showing vigils and walkouts across the country. So I tried to explain in as non-scary a way as I could what was happening.
S is in Middle School now, and had already heard about the shooting. She had also heard about the student walk-out being planned for March 14. I asked her if she thought she might want to join. She replied, “I agree with what they are doing, but I’d be scared to walk out. What if someone with a gun comes to the walk-out and starts shooting?”
G asked if he is safe at school. I explained that we are fortunate to live in a state with very strict gun laws. I feel very safe sending him to school each day, and I don’t feel that something like the Florida shooting will happen where we live. “Then why are people in our state going to protest?” he asked. I replied that we want to live in a country where everyone can feel safe, and that gun laws need to change in our whole country in order for that to happen. I asked if he would like to go to the upcoming March for our Lives Rally in Boston with me. He replied, “Yes, I would. And I’m going to make a sign that says ‘I want my cousins to be safe at school.”
Let me be clear. These are NOT conversations that I want to be having with my children. These are not conversations I want anyone to have to have with their children.
And speaking of conversations nobody should be having right now…. I am literally shaking with rage over the suggestion that the problem of school shootings can be solved by arming teachers.
There are so many, many, many things wrong with that idea that it’s almost impossible to think where to start.
Let me start with the fact (not opinion, fact) that bringing guns into schools will de facto make schools less safe. I’m not going to bother looking up statistics on accidental deaths/injuries caused by guns. But anyone who has worked in an environment with children knows it is just common sense to keep harmful objects out of the reach of children. (Okay, my stomach is starting to tighten at the sheer stupidity of having to write this last paragraph, and the sheer stupidity of someone who would think that having a loaded gun in a classroom does not raise safety concerns…. so I’m going to move on.)
Let me continue with how demoralizing to the profession of teaching it is to suggest that teachers should carry guns. Teaching is more than just a job. It is a vocation. A calling. Anyone who has ever had the good fortune to meet a truly spectacular teacher knows that these people were put on this earth to nurture, encourage, mentor and guide our children. Good teachers invest their hearts and souls into understanding our children, loving our children, and creating classroom environments where our children can thrive. When I hear someone suggest, all in one breath, that we need to make our schools safer by having metal detectors, locked doors, and armed teachers, it literally makes me feel sick. Teachers are not inanimate objects like a door that you can place a lock on or an entryway where you can install a metal detector. Teachers are human beings who have taken on one of the most important and undervalued roles in our society. Throwing around the idea that teachers should also, in addition to the billion roles they already play, take on the role of armed security guard…. this further devalues the already taken-for-granted things that teachers already do.
And finally, let me talk for a moment about teacher training. Over the course of my career, I have had access to some amazing professional development experiences that have exponentially expanded my capacity to nurture and educate children. I’ve had training in child development, psychology, classroom management, diagnosing reading disabilities, hands-on math instruction…. you name it. One summer, I attended a week-long STEM training on-site at NASA. I learned to be a better science teacher from actual rocket scientists. And being a teacher, I know that staff training hours are golden. For every hour you put into training, you wish you had three or four more hours, because you can never do more than scratch the surface on any given topic. I think of the hours that are currently going into training for lockdown procedures and active shooter situations, and it haunts me. From a professional development perspective, it feels like time taken away from things that could actually make me a better teacher. From a personal perspective, I can tell you that when you are walking through a building, discussing the play-by-play of what you would do in an active shooter situation, you start playing out the situation in your mind. You start imagining the sound of gunshots. You start to visualize the looks of panic on your students’ faces. You feel your pulse quicken as you imagine what it would be like to herd your students into the supply closet and pull the door closed behind you.
Every time I attend one of these teacher trainings, I leave feeling sick to my stomach. It has to stop. We are educators. Our safety matters. I should feel safe in my work environment. Our children should feel safe in school.
If you have not yet taken action, please do. The tide is beginning to turn, and we all need to be part of it.
Thanks for reading.