Thoughts from a Concerned Teacher

Thoughts from a Concerned Teacher

Check this out for a teacher's thoughts on arming teachers and weapons in the classroom.
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In general, the debate over gun control and the "proper" interpretation of the 2nd Amendment has possibly been one of the most explosive areas of argument in my personal life. I'm only a young twenty-something and I know that I still have a long way to go, but this is the first time in my brief life where I have actually lost and damaged friendships by expressing my opinions on a controversial matter. I have been called stupid, ignorant, idiotic, and treasonous for my words and views. And as per usual in the United States, any opinion must be boiled down into one of two parties, one of two sides of the aisle, one of two opposing sides, one of two political factions at war.

Several days ago, in reaction to the latest school shooting in Parkland, Florida, the principal of my school wrote a letter to all parents and students that laid out our school's safety procedures and priorities. While reading it to my 6th grade class, I did my level best to emphasize to them that their safety and well-being was more important to me than anything else in the world. I stressed to them that I would do anything to keep them safe, and that if we take our safety procedures seriously, the living nightmares that have come crashing into reality in schools across this nation will never, God willing, ever reach us here. With less than a minute left in the class period, a student shot up his hand and quickly asked, "But what if it does?"

I truthfully didn't have the time to answer him in that moment, and I hurriedly replied that he and his classmates needed to move on to their next class. But I truthfully didn't have an answer for him.

What I can't tell my students is just how afraid I am.

One of the solutions that was thrown out at me in a rather frustrated fervor was the presence of even more guns in schools. It was aggressively suggested to me that not only should teachers be armed, but also that armed guards should be regularly posted at schools. (This is a random aside, but I seriously never thought that in America, the schools where we teach and learn would ever have anything in common with military bases, prisons, or war zones.)

My problem with this solution is the terrifying X factor that introducing even more guns into a school can possibly produce. Accidental gun-related injuries and deaths as a result of various forms of mishandling are at the top of my list of concerns. And honestly, other people have spoken on this topic far more eloquently than I have. On Twitter, Mark Popham has written the following:

“Every time another one of these mass shootings happens—right when people start telling us that the answer is more guns, guns for everyone, guns for teachers, guns for students—I think about Chris Kyle. Chris Kyle was the American Sniper guy—a highly decorated Navy Seal sniper with 150 confirmed kills in the Iraq War. Whatever else is true about him, he definitely was very good at shooting guns and used to being in combat environments.

On February 2nd, 2013, Kyle and a friend took a 25 year old Marine veteran to a shooting range, in the hope of helping him with his PTSD. On the way Kyle realized that the guy was dangerous, and texted his friend as such; the friend replied affirmatively. If this was a movie the 25 year old would have freaked out and drawn a weapon, and Kyle would have shot him or shot the gun out of his hand or held him at gunpoint. But it wasn't a movie. What actually happened was a Navy Seal military sniper and his friend were both shot to death with Kyle's own guns. Both of them were armed, and neither had time to even unholster their weapons.

Kyle knew that the man he was with was dangerous. He knew he was armed—he armed him! To the degree that anyone could be forewarned and prepared for a situation, Kyle was. And yet the other guy shot two armed and trained men dead, got in a car and drove away. I can spend the rest of my life at a gun range and not have the facility with firearms that Chris Kyle did. So how the hell is a gun going to help me, or a terrified social studies teacher? Because it doesn't look like it did squat for him.

No amount of training and no gun on your belt is going to let you dodge a bullet or keep it from ripping the life out of you. Every student and teacher at that school could have been trained military personnel with access to weapons and that many people could have still died. We know that because the 2009 Fort Hood shooting—which occurred on a MILITARY BASE—killed 13.

Today a bunch of men are going to go to a gun store and they're going to buy their third or 10th or 25th gun, because this scares them, and they think the gun is going to keep them safe. They're going to be Action Movie Chris Kyle, not Actual Real Life Chris Kyle Who Was Murdered. It’s going to keep on happening. And it’s going to get worse and worse. (https://twitter.com/markpopham/status/964157761427...)

On that same topic, John Windham rather hit the nail on the head regarding the actual reality of the presence of a weapon in the classroom, as well as the after-effects of such a horrific event:

Ok, I am a teacher. I hear shooting. Do I first secure the room and make sure all my kids are safe, or do I leave the room and hunt the shooter? Can you imagine how noncombatant children are going to react when I pull my weapon? What do I do if a child tries to stop me because they don’t like guns—how do I control that situation? Next, if I do get the room secure and get the kids safe, where do I aim my weapon?

Safety on or off? Remember, I have 35 kids that I have to respond to while I am getting my weapon ready to fire. Do I aim at the door, praying that some innocent doesn’t bang on the door? Meanwhile, I'm praying that my kids don’t freak out and start screaming, "Shoot, shoot!!" What if I shoot an innocent? Would it be considered innocent friendly fire, or am I now up for legal charges? Maybe I should aim at the window and pray I don’t shoot at a cop because what I see is a long gun and not the cop.

Maybe I have all this worked out in my head (no CC class on God’s green Earth trains this). So how do I train, qualify, practice? Who pays for this? I've got more questions. Say that I am defending the room, ready to fire while my kids are freaked out (by the way, the kids have no eye or ear protection), and I shoot the bad guy. They get to watch their teacher kill another human. Sure, there will be kids that will see me a hero, those kids are cool. What about the parents and kids that are not cool with my change from teacher to shooter? These are families from my neighborhood, and I will see them everyday. School is extremely social. Children won’t learn from teachers they don’t connect with or admire, so now I have severed relationships.

Now the end of my story goes like this: say my favorite little one comes to school, and in class, pulls a gun. I love this kid--I know the family, I probably taught other members of that family--and now I have to try to shoot and kill this child. What about my mental health? I am going to say, it ain’t easy--this armed teacher thing. We are not combat trained, and we don’t look at our kids as targets I might have to engage in the future. So, do you really want a combat minded person teaching kids?

These are the quotes that have truly guided me on this issue, and they articulate how I feel about it far better than I myself could have done.

Above all, I'm tired, dear readers. I'm exhausted and I'm afraid for my students in this country. Screw politics. Screw the sides of the aisle. All I want is a guarantee that our children can walk into institutions of learning without the fear of never going home again.

Stay safe, friends and readers. Godspeed.

Cover Image Credit: https://www.pexels.com/photo/building-ceiling-classroom-daylight-373488/

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To The Friends I Won't Talk To After High School

I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.
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Hey,

So, for the last four years I’ve seen you almost everyday. I’ve learned about your annoying little brother, your dogs and your crazy weekend stories. I’ve seen you rock the awful freshman year fashion, date, attend homecoming, study for AP tests, and get accepted into college.

Thank you for asking me about my day, filling me in on your boy drama and giving me the World History homework. Thank you for complimenting my outfits, laughing at me presenting in class and listening to me complain about my parents. Thank you for sending me your Quizlets and being excited for my accomplishments- every single one of them. I appreciate it all because I know that soon I won’t really see you again. And that makes me sad. I’ll no longer see your face every Monday morning, wave hello to you in the hallways or eat lunch with you ever again. We won't live in the same city and sooner or later you might even forget my name.

We didn’t hang out after school but none the less you impacted me in a huge way. You supported my passions, stood up for me and made me laugh. You gave me advice on life the way you saw it and you didn’t have to but you did. I think maybe in just the smallest way, you influenced me. You made me believe that there’s lots of good people in this world that are nice just because they can be. You were real with me and that's all I can really ask for. We were never in the same friend group or got together on the weekends but you were still a good friend to me. You saw me grow up before your eyes and watched me walk into class late with Starbucks every day. I think people like you don’t get enough credit because I might not talk to you after high school but you are still so important to me. So thanks.

With that said, I truly hope that our paths cross one day in the future. You can tell me about how your brothers doing or how you regret the college you picked. Or maybe one day I’ll see you in the grocery store with a ring on your finger and I’ll be so happy you finally got what you deserved so many guys ago.

And if we ever do cross paths, I sincerely hope you became everything you wanted to be. I hope you traveled to Italy, got your dream job and found the love of your life. I hope you have beautiful children and a fluffy dog named Charlie. I hope you found success in love before wealth and I hope you depended on yourself for happiness before anything else. I hope you visited your mom in college and I hope you hugged your little sister every chance you got. She’s in high school now and you always tell her how that was the time of your life. I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.

And hey, maybe I’ll see you at the reunion and maybe just maybe you’ll remember my face. If so, I’d like to catch up, coffee?

Sincerely,

Me

Cover Image Credit: High school Musical

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Writing Saved My Sanity

Write it all down when you can't talk to anyone.

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I love writing.

I have since elementary school, and I've dreamed of becoming a published author. I started off writing stupid plays in elementary school, then it grew it almost writing a full-blown novel in middle school. I have no idea where that thing went to. It was all notebook paper and bad writing. In high school, my writing was kinda pushed to the side so I could focus on school. When I entered college, I started writing small poems about my now ex-boyfriend.

I was scared to express myself to him sometimes, the intensity of my feelings for him scared me. So instead of telling him, I wrote them down. When I tried to share them with him, he hated it. He thought writing down feelings was weird and creepy. So I didn't share anything else with him. When we finally broke up for good, everything just poured out of me. What I couldn't express verbally, I wrote or typed out.

I always have ideas flowing through my head. They never cease and I wouldn't want them to. Writing gives me an escape, from stress, work, school, or fights. It gives me a place to vent and to be open with everything. This is a reason I love writing for Odyssey, not only has this place brought me amazing friends but revived my love for writing. I'm never without my notebook anymore, I'd get distracted in class by an idea and have to write I think then and there.

I love sharing my more personal writing with close friends, especially my poems as of late. I found that I have a voice for young women who find themselves in a toxic relationship much like mine was. I want to speak out and show them that you can grow from the bullshit. It may take some time, but you will be better.

Writing saved my sanity. It allows me to express myself without having to use my actual voice. Anyone who knows me, knows I hate public speaking. I tend to psych myself out leading up to it. My current projects include writing for Odyssey every week, I'm in the process of trying to continue my short stories, and I'm excited to announce that I'm currently working on my very first poetry book!

Writing has given me so much, and I'm so looking forward to making a career out of something I love so much.

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