I’m your kid’s teacher, and I would take a bullet for your child. But I wish you wouldn’t ask me to [Post From Tumblr]


#1

From here.

Hi.

I’m your kid’s teacher, and I would take a bullet for your child. But I wish you wouldn’t ask me to.

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We had an intruder drill today.

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I have shepherded children through a lot of intruder drills. I have also, on one memorable occasion, shepherded children through a non-drill. When I was a children’s librarian in a rough suburb, armed men got into a fight in the alley behind our building. We ushered all of the kids - most of whom were unattended - into the basement while we waited for the police.

During intruder drills, some children - from five-year-olds all the way to high school kids - get visibly upset. At one school, the intruder drill included administrators running down the hallways, screaming and banging on lockers to simulate the “real thing.” Kids cry. Kindergartners wet themselves. Teenagers laugh, nudging each other, even as the blood drains from their faces.

Other children handle intruder drills matter-of-factly. “Would the guy be able to shoot us through the door?” they ask, the same way they’d ask a question about their math homework. In some ways, this is worse than the kids who cry. To be so young and so accustomed to fear that these drills seem routine.

And then there are the teachers. There is no way, huddling in a corner with your students, ducking out of view of the windows and doors, to avoid thinking about what happens when it’s not a drill.

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People really hate teachers. I don’t take it personally. It actually makes a lot of sense: what other group of professionals do we know so well? How many doctors have you had? How many plumbers? How many secretaries?

Over the course of my public school education, I had at least fifty teachers for at least a year each. So of course some of them were bad. You take fifty people from any profession, and a couple of them are going to be terrible at their job.

So I had a couple of teachers who were terrible, and a few teachers who were amazing, inspirational figures - the kinds of teachers they make movies about.

And then I had a lot of teachers who did a good job. They came to school every day and worked hard. They’d planned our lessons and they graded our papers. I learned what I was supposed to, more or less, even if it wasn’t the most incredible learning experience of my life.

Most teachers fall into that category. I’m sure I do.

Looking at it from the other side, though, I see something that I didn’t know when I was a kid.

Those workhorse teachers who tried, who failed sometimes and sometimes succeeded, who showed up every day and did their jobs: those teachers loved us.

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Of course you can never know what you’ll do in the event. That’s what they always say. In the event of an intruder, a fire, a tornado.

You can never know until you know.

But part of what’s so terrifying, so upsetting about an intruder drill as a teacher, is that on some level you do know. You don’t aspire to martyrdom; you’ve never wanted to be a hero. You go home every night to a family that loves you, and you intend to spend the next fifty years with them. You will do everything in your power to hide yourself in that office along with your kids.

But if you can’t.

If you can’t.

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When people tell me about why they oppose gun control, I can’t hear it anymore.

I’m from a part of the country where everybody has guns. I used to be really moderate about this stuff, and I am not anymore.

I can’t be.

Every day, I go to work in a building that contains hundreds of children. Every single one of those kids, including every kid that makes me crazy, is a joy and a blessing. They make their parents’ lives meaningful. They make my life meaningful. They are the reason I go to work in the morning, and the reason I worry and plan when I come home.

Parents usually know a handful of kids who are the most wonderful creatures on the planet. I know a couple thousand. It is an incredible privilege, and it is also terrifying. The world is big and scary, and I love so many small people who must go out into it.

So when adults tell me, “I have the right to own a gun”, all I can hear is: “My right to own a gun outweighs your students’ right to be alive.” All I can hear is: “My right to own a gun is more important than kindergarteners feeling safe at school.” All I can hear is: “Mine. Mine. Mine.”

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When you are sitting there hiding in the corner of your classroom, you know.

The alternative would be unthinkable.

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We live in a country where children are acceptable casualties. Every time someone tells me about the second amendment I want to give them a history lesson. I also want to ask them: in what universe is your right to walk into a Wal-Mart to buy a gun more important than the lives of hundreds of children shot dead in their schools?

Parents send their kids to school every day with this shadow. Teachers live with the shadow. We work alongside it. We plan for it. In the event.

In the event, parents know that their children’s teachers will do everything in their power to keep them safe. We plan for it.

And when those plans don’t work, teachers die protecting their students.

We love your children. That’s why we’re here. Some of us love the subject we teach, too, and that’s important, but all of us love your kids.

The alternative would be unthinkable.

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When you are waiting, waiting, waiting for the voice to come on over the PA, telling you that the drill is over, you look at the apprehensive faces around you. You didn’t grow up like this. You never once hid with your teacher in a corner, wondering if a gunman was just around the corner. It is astonishing to you that anyone tolerates this.

And the kids are nervous, but they are all looking to you. You’re their teacher.

They know what you didn’t know, back when you were a kid, back before Columbine. They know that you love them. They know you will keep them safe.

You’re their teacher.

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If you are a parent who thinks it’s totally reasonable for civilians to have a house full of deadly weapons, and who accepts the blood of innocent people in exchange for that right, it doesn’t change anything for me. I will love your kid. I will treat you, and your child, the same way I treat everyone else: with all of the respect and the care that is in me.

In the event, I will do everything in my power to keep your child safe.

I just want you to know what you are asking me to do.

"So when adults tell me, “I have the right to own a gun”, all I can hear is: “My right to own a gun outweighs your students’ right to be alive.” All I can hear is: “My right to own a gun is more important than kindergarteners feeling safe at school.” All I can hear is: “Mine. Mine. Mine.”"


Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was surrounded by cowering "good guys with guns"
#2

Damn.  


#3

Yes. That’s what I hear too. From blinkered, selfish people, usually ones who think they’re the REAL Americans.

Maybe when it comes down to it, they’re actually right about that.


#4

Hah.

Yeah, the bitter cynicism is swallowing me up too.


#5

@SocialJusticeMonk–thank you. i teach sixth grade and have taught sixth grade all but one of 23 years in the profession. i’ve had every thought expressed in that post on numerous occasions. thank you.


#6

I’m a college instructor married to an elementary teacher. Neither of us know any colleagues interested in adding “armed security guard” to our list of responsibilities so please don’t ask us to do that either.


#7

That was an excellent read. I’m somewhat surprised that people hate teachers. My teaching experience is limited to TA’ing for a few years at a public uni, which is a different kettle of fish than K though 12. But I figured most parents valued their children’s’ teachers, and possessed judgement discerning enough to understand the distribution of competence described by the author. I would think the greater familiarity parents have with teachers than other professions would augment that awareness, not diminish it. I don’t really understand why the author says it makes a lot of sense.


#8

How I wish it wouldn’t take the eradication of all human life as we know it for some people to finally ‘get it…’ but some of us really are just that dense, sadly.


#9

I’m warming up to the idea that language is an evolutionary cul-de-sac.


#10

You can see it here on BB. Almost every time there is a post where a teacher or school acts in a way that appears to be a little autocratic, rather than consider the possibility that the teacher - even if wrong - was acting out of a sense of duty or might have been otherwise well-intentioned, the default assumption is that s/he was just being a petty dictator, or (if white or male) racist or sexist.

Part of the problem is that the “familiarity” is not contact with a fellow human being in an equal position, but rather as an authority figure, often one with whom one has a beef, moreover the parameters of the category “teacher” get fixed in one’s mind at an age when one is not mentally mature enough to make the category a fully rounded one.


#11

But right or wrong, surely people realize those headline cases are the outliers? Parents have to know that without teachers, there’s no education system. And most must realize public school teachers aren’t living the life of Riley. I can understand being disappointed in the state of the public school system, but hating teachers seems more than a little extreme. I’m the first to admit Americans are frequently irrational, but the idea that they hate the people who take low-paying jobs to educate their own children seems like a low bar even for this anti-intellectual country.


#12

…it’s because of some bullshit-stupid zero tolerance policy.


#13

Well, I don’t know. I think that the fact that the first, knee-jerk reaction is “what an asshole” suggests that people have internalized a prejudice against teachers. Even in the cases where the behavior is prima facie execrable, it seems to me a reaction consonant with a built-in bias towards teachers should be “wait, why is someone who should know better, and who has dedicated their lives to helping children doing this” rather than immediate bloodthirsty calls for banishment, doxxing, or worse.


#14

That is powerful stuff. It should be required reading for every NRA member and every senator and congressperson at every level in the United States.

ETA: Words fail me…http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/neosho-baseball-team-features-ar-15-raffle_us_5a8a02f2e4b00bc49f455f30


#15

Okay, I see where you’re coming from. I tend to be pretty hostile to people (including teachers) who are doing or have done things I think are abusive (such as the teacher who dragged the student for not standing of the Pledge), though I try not to have that attitude towards those who merely made dumbfounding mistakes (for example the teacher who asked his students to try to see things from the Nazis’ point-of-view). That said, when I do take an adversarial stance against any professional’s behavior, my belief if that the consequences should be from their superiors and any communities they’ve chosen to serve.

I’m not convinced doxing is always universally bad in every case, and I absolutely understand frustration with a lack within repercussions in trenchant bureaucracies. But in general I regard vigilantism as a poor and unregulated substitute for real justice. My main hope for the social justice movement as a whole is that, though largely facilitated by modern communications, it doesn’t simply end there when outrage exhaustion sets. Lasting reform requires official action and/or enduring shifts in cultural attitudes. In the case of teachers I think a big part of that translates into them receiving real (but not blind) support and paid salaries that reflect what we want from them.

But all that said, I still recognize that the stories of teachers royally screwing up are outliers. So as someone who can be hostile in those cases, I do recognize that most teachers are hardworking professionals on whom our individual and collective prosperity largely depends. Even so, I’ll try to be more reflective when I’m taking a hard line. I ask only that people realize that outrage at individuals doesn’t necessarily imply anger at their profession as a whole.


#16

I wasn’t intending to call out you or any other individual, just pointing out how some of the activity here at BB seems to indicate a knee-jerk bias against teachers. This kind of bias can well coexist with an intellectual pro-teacher philosophy. (Think liberal white person who solidly supports civil rights, BLM, etc but crosses the street at night when they see some black youths walking towards them.)

As for the notion of a distinction between the profession and the people who comprise it, it is something teachers have to put up with every time their contract is being negotiated and even their friends make disparaging comments about teachers unions.


#17

Another post from Tumblr.

there’s a myth that teachers work seven hours a day, nine months a year. there’s this joke: name three reasons to become a teacher - june, july, august.

if you’re worth your salt, you know better. you know the day usually is at least nine hours long, if not twelve (thanks, staff meeting that ran late again), you know that you spend your summers locked in small rooms learning and re-learning the smallest tactic that might help your students; endlessly on Pintrest because oh my gosh, isn’t that just the best idea for a sensory table. or a new name board. or this would really help them understand the activity; yes it’s going to cost me but gosh, isn’t it lovely. you know that being a teacher also sometimes means being a parent, kind of, and being a jailer, kind of, and being a hardass, kind of, and being the kindest person in their life. you know sometimes your role is “you gave me the hope i needed to keep studying” and sometimes it’s “you showed me i needed to work harder.” being a teacher is watching the entire series of my little pony just because it’s what’s cool with the kids and you think you could make a curriculum from it and it’s also deliberately pretending you don’t understand cultural references just because it makes kids squirm. it’s giving “a little extra” all the time, every day, a little extra points for that one student who needs it, a little extra hug, a little extra thought, and time, and emotional labor, and heart, and heart, and heart.

the interesting thing about being both a student and teacher at certain points in my life means that i came face-to-face with the idea i was going to lay down my life for a student before i’d even hit 21. at 19, taking lessons on how to distract a shooter should-it-ever-occur; a cop looked me in the face. “are you ready?” he asked. “will you die for them?” he had a gun on his hip. i hadn’t even met my class yet.

sometimes, i don’t match perfectly with my students. i mean, you always like them, a little, even if they drive you nuts, but some kids just won’t click with you. it’s kind of a hard thing to learn; you assume it’s because of you, and your failure to become some movie-star teacher who touches the life of every bill and sally. but the truth is, kids got stuff going on at home and in their bodies and in their friends and they don’t always have time or energy to be patient and listen or whatever you need from them. but you try, you know. and then you’re asked. hey, this kid that won’t listen, that hits other kids, that uses slurs. you’ll die for him, right? you’ll give up that big beautiful future you got, that family that loves you, that home and that slice of cake. you’ll give up that summer cruise you’ve saved up for since july and your brother’s wedding. for this kid?

i do have, like. a gauge about things. sometimes, and i mean this truly and deeply, i am simply not paid enough for certain nonsense. no, no, who cares i’m not paid enough for crayons or markers or books or literally half the supplies i have in my classroom (i’ll find a way, in my budget, to provide, always, every time, no matter what it takes out of my mouth). usually it’s inter-community drama or parents who are somehow standing in the way of their student’s education or administration yet again slashing an important lesson/curriculum/whatever-they-get-their-hands-on. i’m not paid enough for a lot of things, but i still do them. i’m not paid enough to make your children extra food or be sure they get their vitamins. i’m certainly not paid enough to die for them.

often the argument “just bring a gun” comes up. how silly to anyone who has worked with children. there’s safety risks, huge safety risks, and then there’s anything in a classroom. if you think something is safe, it is not. kids will find a way to hurt themselves on nothing but an empty floor if you give them the time. i wonder if this what they tell police officers who were shot in the line of duty - well, it sucks but you should have had some type of superhuman reflex and simply not been shot. after all, you had a gun. this personal gun somehow cancels out the bigger automatic gun. two wrongs make a right. my personal gun would somehow empower me in such a way that i could not only predict the movements of a shooter but also have the aim, calm, and consideration to shoot him before he shot me. my teaching degree did not come with a CIA training course. i have bad vision. i know, faithfully, in the pit of my stomach, where the tiny terrors are that, should i even have a gun, i would not shoot it. i wonder, always. what would that look like. the police don’t know who is the hero when they break down doors. and, should i die in that classroom, my death will have a whisper: don’t politicize it. let it, the others say, remain meaningless.

sometimes a cop will look at you and ask, are you ready? are you willing? are you comfortable knowing that this humble job, this often-thankless, often-joyful job: it has a policy expecting you to face a man armed to the teeth. and die for each child in that classroom, even the child who drives you nuts, even when you aren’t paid enough, even when you’re giving up your family and your love, even when people will blame you for not having a gun. and you know, somehow, the minute you step into a classroom. you know the minute you see them. it rings in your chest like a second heartbeat: yes, yes, yes, i would gladly do it, i would die twice if i was allowed to do it, if i could save one, if i could save any, yes, of course, unhesitatingly. because you love them, even when you hate your job, and you love them in a way that means you know would stretch out your body at 19 years old and give it up, because, somehow, you understand “protect and serve” in the core of your bones, in the grit of you, that these children are yours, are an extension of your twelve-hour days and hungry belly and endless working, and that the love you have will make that choice effortless, easy, a promise you make even if nobody ever asks for it.

okay.

three days ago, my second graders came in from the cold when i got the first question. a tug on my sleeve. “miss raquel?” her eyes are dry. she’s just thinking. “when a shooter comes, are we ready?”

and i realized: we’re asking them to die, too.


#18

Australia researched the issue, removed the weapons, and agreed, "My right to own a gun does not outweigh the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Oh, on a side note, Australia researched the issue of electronic voting machines, put in place an electronic voting machine system that relied on Open Source software, and preserved their right to vote. In 2002, Bush and gang, researched the issue, and decided our right to vote needed to be eliminated so proprietary electronic voting systems could make a profit. Instead of downloading the Australian Open Source software, modifying it to meet our needs, for free, we now spend exhorbitant amounts of money to put profits in corporate pockets.


#19

Another thing from Tumblr on the subject (source)











#20

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