Teachers - I'm an Educator, Not a Terminator, Part 1


It's impossible to be an educator and not talk about what happened in Florida. More innocent lives lost, another gun in a school, and another endless debate like an Ouroboros in which no one can agree on how to quit eating our tails. The comments are more frequent recently, it seems, that teachers should be armed. Here's why I will quit before I ever, ever carry a firearm in my classroom, or, work in a school where such a thing is allowed.

1. We're educators - not Terminators, not guards, not soldiers, not police

The vast, vast majority of teachers I know - 99% easily - are working in the field because they love children. Full stop. We like being around kids. We like teaching kids. We value them so much that we want to work with them day in and day out, in a badly respected, poorly compensated field. Many educators pour their entire souls into their job. We purchase supplies for our rooms, go to after school events to support your children, coach, give advice, discipline, love, and, yes, educate.

What kind of person, then, do you expect to be ready and willing to possibly kill one of these students should the need arise? It's easy, if you're not an educator, to picture a school shooter (what does a school shooter look like in your mind, by the way?) and heroically drawing your sidearm and cutting them down.

But what if that person was your own child? 

We spend 8 hours a day, sometimes more, educating your young people. We're at the center of a community in which we work with these children. We love them dearly. What makes you think it would be so easy for one of us to end the life of someone we have taught, cared for, nurtured? Wouldn't you want someone who is NOT willing and eager to take the life of a young person teaching?

Would you want someone who IS willing and eager to take a young life teaching?

What population sits in the middle of THAT Venn diagram?

I came to teaching later in life, but many of my colleagues were, and are, young women. They didn't imagine themselves standing in the front of a classroom, teaching their kids, and suddenly turning into an action hero when an attack arose. That's not a woman's fantasy. That's a male empowerment fantasy, and, shocker, most teachers ain't men.

The natural urge for anyone in these situations is to run and hide. I stand by the side of my door when we have active shooter drills because I WILL die to defend your kids. I stand there to show my children that I'm not afraid to defend them. I stand there because I hope, pray, that if it ever comes to pass, and that somehow the gunman comes into my room, I will have a chance to grab him or the gun and stop him.

Notice I didn't say shoot, or kill. I don't want to do those things.

(What does the shooter in your mind look like, by the way?)

2. We Don't Want to Kill Anyone - An Active Shooter Does

This is a short one. No teachers wants kill anyone (except maybe the person who won't stop asking questions in faculty meetings.) An active shooter only wants to kill people. Who has the upper-hand in a confrontation, then? The person who woke up this morning intent on teaching children, or the person who woke up this morning intent on killing as many people as possible?

3. More Guns = More Access = More Shootings

I feel like this is a no-brainer. 

According to the National Center for Education Statistics there are about 3.2 million teachers in the USA. Let's say we arm 10% of them, or about 320,000 people. That's 320,000 more guns in schools than, presumably, there are now. (I guess that depends on whether the school is in a dooms-day prepper's compound.) 

A fun statistic that many gun enthusiasts like to throw around during times like these is that the majority of gun deaths are suicides. 

To which I ask - why would you add a gun to a place where children, particularly teenagers and young adults, are at much of the day? A place of high stakes and tensions, a place of raging hormones and wild mood swings?

Many adults seem to ignore the reality of children's emotions. Let me remind you that we were all there, and those emotions were as powerful, if not more powerful, in us as children than they are in us as adults. Children feel at a level we just don't anymore. It's one of the reasons break ups are so devastating for young people. They fall in and out of love easily and dramatically. They get upset over nothing, and sometimes, they're as cool as cucumbers. But what they all are is volatile. You don't know what's on a student's mind from the day to day. An A student could come in on Thursday and have a complete 180 in personality and demeanor.

The roots could be anything: missed breakfast, the bully on the bus really hit a nerve today, dad gave them a whack on the head, their dog/grandpa/cousin/sister/brother/friend died. I have 85 students or so, and that's 85 individuals each with a mind and emotions all their own. I can think of a few I wouldn't want in the same room as a gun, not even a secure one.

Ask a teacher if they have 1 student they wouldn't want near a gun under any circumstances. If they can't name one, they're lying or clueless.

People who are not in a classroom on a daily basis don't understand the sheer volume of students in and out, and in the case of a self-contained room, the close proximity of your students. No matter where I store the gun, on my person, in my desk, locked in a drawer or cabinet or safe, the students will have access. Do you trust 320,000 people to be 100% on top of their game every day of work? 

What about the SRO who left his gun in the faculty bathroom?

That's a professional who goes about armed on a day to day basis. Before you say "It was the faculty bathroom!" let me remind you that there are more students than teachers, and they WILL, either purposefully or by accident, be in places they're not supposed to be. From my limited experience, I can tell you I've had students get their hands in my pockets. Had I been truly engrossed with working with a student or in something else, I wouldn't have noticed.

Every teacher who carries a gun in school has to be lucky and careful every day. A student only needs to be lucky once.

Let's end this first blog about guns in classrooms with a final statistic.

If there's a gun in your house, you're more likely to be injured or killed by said firearm. That can apply to anything, for sure: I won't die of rat poisoning if I don't have rat poison in my house. If I don't have knives, I won't cut myself.

If there are less guns in school now, more guns means more access, and that means more injuries and deaths.

So says Harvard.