I just gotta say… the idea that having certain teachers, like myself, armed with guns in order to protect schools from mass shootings is a particularly unsettling one. Oh, I totally get how it could sound sensible and even cost efficient. Why hire guards when our teachers can just pull double-duty for perhaps a small bonus? It just doesn’t make any sense to me for the simple reason that it runs counter to every reason why people become teachers.
We signed up for this career with the intent of sharing whatever meager knowledge we’ve gained with as many young people as possible. What we did not sign up for, and what the vast majority of educators would reject, is being saddled with the constant knowledge that at any time we could be called upon to make the decision whether or not to end another person’s life. A person that in many cases just might be known to us as a student. Over the course of my career, I’ve witnessed many hallway fights. Would I be expected to pull out my pistol in an effort to calm the situation? Any number of misinterpreted situations could result in a split-second decision that ends with a lifetime of regret. Even if the unthinkable does happen, and I’m faced with taking down an armed attacker, what happens if I miss and add another casualty to the list? I don’t ever want a gun as an option to make a mistake with.
It’s not that the educational profession attracts cowards. Anyone who faces down a classroom full of hormone-filled adolescents with just a whiteboard marker in his/her hand clearly knows no fear. The many teachers who have died while serving as human shields for their students attests to the bravery found in those who stand at the front of the classroom. It comes down to a question of mind-set. Like our brothers and sisters in law enforcement, we wanted to make a difference in the lives of those around us; however, our passion took us down the road of public education, not public safety. It’s a choice we made long ago, and few of us ever regret it. This is in stark contrast to what would happen if guns starting showing up on campus.
Having access to a firearm in my classroom would change the entire dynamic of the relationship I have with my students. There would be no shaking off the specter of potential death and injury that is inherently broadcast by having a gun nearby. It would only serve as a constant reminder of how adults have failed at their primary jobs of being adults, the ones who are supposed to solve society’s problems. How do I expect my students to get along and solve their conflicts with their words instead of their fists if the government won’t do the same? Every glance at the gun safe or glimpse of a should holster (God forbid if an elementary teacher ever hugged a child and a concealed weapon went off) would only increase the level of anxiety found in our students. Along with adding my own to it as well.
For example, I never want to share the burden that my friends in blue have to carry. For them, they must be prepared at all times to kill anyone they meet because there is a real possibility that it could be asked of them in order to protect others. It’s their job. Without that thin blue line, our society would grind to a halt very quickly. They are the ones that enforce the boundaries of behavior for all of us whenever they perform their duties as referees in the game called life. My fellow teachers and I, well, we serve in a much different capacity. Whereas without the police we wouldn’t have a today, without teachers we don’t have a tomorrow.
So I say, on with the debates and the Facebook postings and the tweets. Continue to demand of our state and national politicians a step, any step, in the right direction. Make banners and signs and share snarky memes on Instagram. Please, just don’t ask me or my peers to carry a gun in the name of a nation where a teenager’s right to an assault weapon with a large-capacity magazine and unlimited ammunition is held in higher esteem than the lives of the children I teach.