I have something to say about guns in schools. Since I work in a school and try very hard to pay attention to the masses when it comes to hot button issues, I have to say that this one absolutely stumps me. With that said, I have to admit that while I’m going to give it space and attention in my brain and writing, I totally think that the whole “we should put guns in the hands of teachers” is a ploy that’s meant to distract us from the issues that people really want to talk about: tightening up gun laws.
There are certain truths that educators understand in the context of our jobs. We know that we are required to educate children, to asses their progress, and to provide data to them and their parents. We know that students are impressionable and difficult and always changing. Educators know that our jobs are very nearly the hardest we can imagine and when we were young and green in those first years of teaching we all wanted to make a difference and change the world. We are nurses and therapists and en loco parentis. When a job becomes too large for society, we place it on the school system. When students were identified as needing more help than teachers could professionally give in a school setting, we put social workers and psychologists in our buildings to deal with the whole child.
In short, we are doing the most with the least. The most our job allows us to do with the least amount of resources to do it. We take students who are high functioning and low performing and average in every sense of the word. Many schools don’t get to choose who comes to them and every year we get a new problem to solve that we may have never seen before. School professionals reach out to one another and ask for help. Many phone calls start with these words when I’m seeking assistance from colleagues: I need some help in figuring a case out and was wondering what you’ve done in this situation…
If you’re not exhausted just reading the things we’ve done just remember that I haven’t even touched on lesson plans, curriculum guides, standardized tests, backwards planning, best practices, and teacher evaluations. Seating charts, runny noses, shoe tying, counting by 5’s, Pythagorean Theorem, persuasive essays, technology applications and on and on. These are the things educators deal with daily and cannot escape from, though I don’t mean to imply we want that to happen. It’s just, well, a lot.
Last week I made a joke and commented on social media that I would be fine carrying a gun in school for my job as long as police officers would be willing to haul around a class of students that they would have to teach. The image actually still makes me laugh. Can you imagine a fully uniformed police officer running after a burglar and yelling back at his students, “Very good, class! Now let’s do long division!” as the students all run behind him or her? That would be ludicrous to say the least.
So, when someone I know commented that “Teaching, in this world, is a public safety job” on my Facebook wall, I kind of lost it. He went on to say that he didn’t see anything wrong with allowing willing, trained teachers to carry firearms.
In a school
There are so many things wrong with that statement that I sort of didn’t even know where to begin. First of all, teaching is NOT a “public safety” job. Our jobs are not in the realm of public safety, though we are expected to keep them safe while we are instructing them and doing a million other things during the course of a school year. Law enforcement, security, firefighters, EMTs, corrections officers, special agents, state troopers. Those are public safety jobs on which we rely to keep the public safe. Educators jobs are to educate. Period. Full stop. Yet, you can go right back to the beginning of this essay for the litany of requirements of our positions. Carrying a firearm is not and should not ever be one of them.
But, for the sake of being absurd, let’s just imagine what that would require for teachers and principals to do, shall we? To begin with, we’d have to lengthen the school year to include professional development opportunities that include target practice, gun safety, and the basic training that police officers would have to go through. Secondly, there would have to be measures in place to ensure that the guns would be kept from students. Ammunition? Well, presently we don’t have a budget for that so I’m not sure how that would work. Really, I’m not sure how ANY of this would work. It’s too ridiculous to entertain, but I did just to prove a point.
One year, while I was in charge of 400+ students at the high school level I had 12 students who were on parole, 3 violent offenders who were forced to attend school as part of their parole, and 2 who wore ankle bracelets so the law would know where they were at all times. If they didn’t show up to school, their parole officers would bring them. I took care of countless students with mental health issues and some students who argued with their parents while in my office about how they were adults and didn’t have to obey their moms or dads anymore. I’m giving this example of the most extreme year I’ve ever had because I’ve seen students in some of the most vicious fights I will ever witness all the while trying to educate the majority of the population who just wanted to get an education. I haven’t even mentioned the number of gang members I have known and been expected to educate.
Can you imagine keeping a gun in my office away from all of that? I feel certain in saying that even if I had a gun in a holster it would be taken off my person in a matter of moments.
Look, I know we need to have important conversations about public safety and guns. We are trying hard to have them. But I feel confident in speaking on behalf of educators when I say that we will absolutely not have one more job placed on our shoulders. We are not public safety officers and our jobs are not defined as such.
Trust me, please, when I say we have plenty to do already. We’re not happy with the state of the world right now and we hope that better plans for safe schools is the number one priority right now. Communities have to figure this out together and keep shopping malls and movie theaters and schools safe without coming up with stupid plans to arm teachers.
We are doing enough already. Don’t give us this enormous problem to solve by putting guns in our hands.
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