I knew I wanted to be a teacher the day I set foot in a classroom. I love watching students grow and learn. I often tell people that I am so lucky to be paid for doing a job that I love. I have countless hours of training on child development, psychology, and methodology to help me do this job better.
Over the past few years I have also been trained on how to protect bodies from bullets.
The other night, after we discussed the shock of seventeen more dead high school students, my husband asked me “Have you been trained for stuff like this?”
I realized that I’ve never told him. I’ve never told him how I’ve watched the actual videos from Columbine. I’ve seen sadistic teenagers kill other people’s children and laugh while they did it. I’ve never told my husband that I’ve had discussions with colleagues about how overturned desks will not stop bullets. I’ve definitely never told him that at the start of every school year I ask myself if I would die to save my students.
Those are just not things I say out loud.
They are certainly the most melodramatic things I’ve ever written down, and I wish I were making them up.
But every year your child’s teacher asks herself that same question: “Would I die to save even one of these students?”
But here’s the problem…Most of us teachers signed up for this job with the idealistic hope of changing the world. We didn’t sign up for it to save lives. I can’t speak for my fellow colleagues, but I am not especially well equipped for saving lives. In an actual active shooter situation I know that I would do a very bad job of it, but I would still try, if for no other reason than I hope that my own children’s teachers would do the same.
It’s not something teachers talk about too much. We do the yearly training and go back to planning for the first day of school. We hope we will never be the teachers at Columbine, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Chardon, Parkland…
I wanted to give you an actual number of children and teachers who have died at the hands of a student with a gun, but that number seems hard to pin down. Then I realized that the number doesn’t even matter.
People have been reading numbers out loud to us for years and now we are all numb to the statistics. But, here is something that was less numbing to me…When I dropped my children at their elementary school the morning after the Parkland shooting, I thought to myself, “What if this is the last time I see them alive?” When I walked into my own classroom, I asked myself “What if this is the day a shooter bursts through my door? What if this is the day I die?”
These are not the questions mothers or teachers should be asking themselves.
If you really want to think about things mothers should not be doing, let’s imagine standing outside a school praying that your child is one of the students walking out. Imagine identifying the body of your child because they weren’t one of the children who got to live.
But these are not things we say out loud…
We have a problem, America. Other countries do not have this problem. But no one wants to talk about that, either.
Is our problem gun control? Is it mental heath care? It it a culture of bullying or toxic masculinity? Is our problem “thoughts and prayers” instead of action? Is it students who see a problem, but say nothing, or adults in charge who hear a report but are ill-equipped to act? Is it politicians and lobbyists and citizens who have been too passive for far too long?
Our problem is all of those things.
But our problem begins with what we don’t say out loud.
I don’t talk to my husband about the fact that I know I would be the first one shot in my classroom, because that would just be too dramatic.
I don’t talk many people about my views on gun control, because I want them to like me even if they support the rights of gun owners.
I don’t post the memes on social media too often because I don’t want to annoy you.
I started to say to someone “I don’t want to wait to act until my children die in a school shooting…” But I stopped myself. Once again…too dramatic, too disrespectful.
We are all walking around in silence because we are petrified and just thankful this is happening somewhere else. It is much more convenient to be quiet. It is easier to do nothing, citing respect for all sides.
But maybe it is time to starting talking. More than talking, it is time to start fighting. Fighting for gun control, mental heath care, and the resources our schools need to protect all of our children. Pick one, because we need to fight for them all.
We need to fight and we need to talk.
I have been too quiet for too long. I am going to starting talking and acting. I am going to say things that are dramatic and politicized and impolite and if it offends you, then I hope it offends you enough to get you talking and acting too.
Because I don’t want my children to die at school and I don’t want to die protecting yours.
The time for silence is over.