Guns are not the answer Teachers are begging for

Guns are not the answer teachers are begging for. Teachers are begging for a lot of things, the right to carry a gun into a classroom is not one of them.

I taught english in three different high schools over the course of 9 years. In that time I asked for a lot of things, never once was one of those things a gun. I sometimes debated my students with the policy “Teachers should have the right to carry and use tasers in the classroom” but I taught them to debate well, and they always beat me. Weaponizing teachers is a terrible idea.

The thing that is so infuriating about the idea of weaponizing teachers is that it intones a level of trust and respect for the institution of teaching the public abandoned before I ever got my license to teach. It is infuriating to me that the same politicians who voted to make tests the end all be all because teachers could not be trusted to actually teach children, are now so trusting in teachers they would allow a teacher to carry a loaded gun into a classroom?

You have got to be kidding me.

There are a million things I needed trusted about and was not given that trust. I needed trusted that I knew my kids well enough to know when they needed to ditch the lesson plans and write it out because something terrible had happened. Emotional development was “not part of my job” and “not standards based” (even though I was a language arts teacher and we were writing and talking about it and very often attaching it to the experiences of the characters in the book we were reading) and “not part of my job.”

I needed to be trusted when I said a kid was not okay, especially a kid I knew from ninth and tenth grade. I needed to be trusted that my understanding of that kid was not a one off, that I had tried to talk to them. I needed social workers and counselors who were not overwhelmed by paper work and scheduling and all the paperwork things that take up their whole job. I needed a mental health professional in the high school, not a list of people that I could email parents who may or may not care or have the capacity or insurance money to be able to do anything about it.

The idea of having teachers carry guns is a way, I think, of ackowledging that teachers are the front lines of protecting kids, and that much is true. Teachers ARE the front lines of protecting kids. But this is not the way we should be protecting kids, not with guns, not like that.

We can protect kids if you listen to us. I sat in a classroom and really got to know my students. I knew who was having a bad week and whose dog died. I knew who needed me to put my hand on their back and who needed to be told to take a lap around the hallway. I knew them. I knew when something was off, I knew who was a danger to themselves and others. I knew how to teach them so I could have this kind of relationship with them and also talk about Shakespeare.

I did not know all my kids like this, but enough. There were 5 other periods in the day. A kid could connect with at least two adults a day. But I was told this was a waste of instructional time. Why did I ask them how their day was when I could spend four more minutes teaching about gerunds? Why would I get to know them? Emotional intellegence is not in the standards? Waste of time. Waste of time. Now you want us to shoot them?

There are so many things that teachers need. You are right to assume we are on the front lines of keeping the kids safe. Can you please just give teachers the resources they are asking for? They don’t need guns, they need you to trust them as experts in their field, as experts who educate their kids. They do need your support and your trust to do emotional well being work with the kids. Teachers don’t need guns.


One thought on “Guns are not the answer Teachers are begging for

  1. You raise some excellent points here; the sudden switch from “we don’t trust you” to “NOW we trust you!” is disheartening, to say the least.

    I taught at a couple of public universities for many years, and was faced with three armed students, two of whom I had been mentoring. Of those, one was suicidal, and the other started stalking me. The third wandered down the hall outside my office one day, drunk as a lord and waving a pistol.

    I wasn’t armed, but in each case wished I had been (and I do have the right training). Each situation was extremely unstable, and required a good bit of negotiation (at least 3 hours’ worth, and I’m trained in that as well) to resolve peacefully. But they could have easily gone the other way, and again, in each case there were moment I thought that the shooting would start.

    One would be justified in pointing to these as successes for the ‘unarmed teacher’ argument, and in part I agree, because had I been armed, might the negotiation have gone differently? Might I have not used every psychological trick at my disposal? I don’t know.

    I do know this, that each situation had the potential to become far worse (the stalker had a propane-accelerant bomb in his backpack). I was alone with these individuals, with no way to summon help. Had the outcome been different, I would merely have been the first victim, for all threatened (in their words, eerily chiming) to ‘go postal’.

    On balance, I think I should have been armed, because had all options been exhausted, there would have been only a binary solution set. (By the way, even though I know martial arts, the individuals were aware enough to keep out of reach.)

    It’s not a conclusion one can reach lightly, and I’m fully aware that the dynamics of the high-school situation may introduce other factors of which I am either not aware, or upon which I might draw false assumptions.

    I ask your pardon for this rather lengthy comment.

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