So, you want me to carry a gun to school.
That’s a pretty interesting possibility. Before I share with you what I think of that idea, let me tell you a little bit about me.
I have given over nearly half of my life to teaching. I am a Special Educator. I have worked almost exclusively with kids that are deemed “emotionally disturbed.” I have spent a few years in public schools. I ran a class for “behaviorally disordered” kids. My problem was not to get the kids off their cell phones merely so I could teach. Mostly, I just wanted the kids to stop making drug deals so they could focus on English.
Most of my career has been spent teaching at residential facilities. I have been spat on dozens of times. I have been throat punched and nearly passed out. I have sprained my back breaking up a fight and spent a month recuperating. Furniture has been thrown at me. I have been in riots, bomb threats, and of course, countless lock downs.
I have worked with kids who have been prostituted by their parents for drugs. I have worked with kids that have done drive-by shootings. I have worked with kids who bore the scars on their arms because the voices told them to light themselves on fire.
I have learned four different methods of physical management. Restraining kids comes with the job. I have used leather 12-point straps to secure them to beds. I have broken up countless fights.
Many days I love my job. Some days I hate it. I wonder if I am doing the right thing, working in a job where I watch co-workers get seriously hurt, burn out, and wrung out. I have feared for my safety, questioned my competence.
In many ways my calling in this field is what grew me into a man. If most people don’t know the challenges of my job, they don’t know the thrills of it either: reaching a kid who seemed unreachable, connecting with somebody who has been so broken, watching the light in their eyes turn on when it would have been so easy to just give up.
I am not looking for thank you’s or sympathy. I chose my job. You chose yours. I am sure there are days you love and hate your job.
I give this long introduction to establish that all these discussions about mental health, teaching, and what it’s like when you work in a dangerous environment, they are some areas I know some things about.
Teaching is funny. Most jobs people realize they could not do without training. The number of people who have never set foot in a classroom and feel qualified to pronounce what the problem is with schools today quite frankly blows my mind.
There might be things I am wrong about. There might be ideas that you have that would work. But I have to tell you, the confidence that most people make these pronouncements in, it is difficult to stomach, sometimes. Because when you tell me I should carry a gun to school, there are some things that I think I hear underneath your statements.
One of them is that if you were in my shoes, you would sacrifice yourself with out hesitation to save your students. To this, I say: bullshit.
Some of you would. Some of you wouldn’t. Unless you have been in that situation you have utterly no way of knowing. When I think about my own biological children and the obligations I have to them, I don’t even know if taking a bullet for my classroom students is the right thing to do!
Another thing I hear, underneath your suggestion that I carry a gun to school is that you would do this right. Safely. With appropriate training. I hope you will forgive me if I have some skepticism about this.
One of the shell games that happens in education is promises get made that we will do things correctly, and changes get made that simply save governments and tax payers money. Then the follow through never happens. Initiatives are implemented in exactly the opposite manner than the research demonstrated these things needed to happen in. Immersion for English Language Learners, Incluision for special needs students, and standardized testing are the merest tip of the ice berg here: over and over again, there are promises that we will implement plans with follow through and fidelity. Over and over again, at every level, this follow through fails to happen. If we can’t support a general educator with the training they need meet the needs of their wide ranging classes, how can we possibly think that we will safely and effectively train and support staff with fire arms in the class?
The most absurd implication in the suggestion that I carry a gun to school is that the people making firearms available are just trying to solve the problem. From where I am sitting, you are the cause! If I went into your workplace and doused it with kerosene, you would be annoyed if my solution was to offer you fireman training as a way to handle the increased risk you are now at. It would be reasonable for you so suggest I not douse your work place in kerosene. You might observe that it is rather condescending to a fire fighter to suggest that I could make you into one at the same time as expecting you to do your job. And I hope that you are engaged in work that is so worthwhile that you would resist the suggestion that your job ought to be diluted when the whole problem was avoidable anyway.
Of course, it all hinges on that question: Was it avoidable? If AR-15s were illegal, would all those people would have died? We won’t ever know. But giving me a gun is not the solution to the problem that your policies created.