Dear Fellow Exhausted and Frustrated Teachers,
When I became a teacher, I knew that there would be a lot of tasks that I didn't like doing. Fundraising for basic school supplies, spending my own money on pencils for my students, meetings about data-driven instruction that go on for far too long, and volunteering my time taking tickets for a school dance are all things I've come to accept as part of the job. What I never fathomed while dreaming of my career and all the fun ways I would decorate my classroom was that I would have to spend even more time thinking about how to protect my students from an active shooter.
My life matters too, and those life and death decisions should never have to be made within the walls of a classroom.
Training for the reality that someone could walk onto your campus and kill children without blinking an eye is one thing, but experiencing a real lockdown changes your perspective entirely. Our jobs as educators have now become so intertwined with being protectors, crisis managers, and therapists. Despite the fact that we should be thinking about our students' education, we instead have to focus on keeping them alive.
After hearing about every school shooting — most recently the massacre in Parkland, FL — my fellow teachers and I talk about what we would do if a shooter were on our campus, but even with lockdown drills, protocols, and safety tips, nothing would prepare us for that situation. In all the schools I've worked at, each one of them has told us to lock the doors and not let anyone in. That thought alone — of a child trapped in a hallway and put in danger — is what keeps me up at night. Maybe I could save some lives, but it would be impossible to save them all. I know that I would take a bullet for my students, but I'm mad as hell that I've been put in this position. My life matters too, and those life and death decisions should never have to be made within the walls of a classroom.
Teaching in public schools is a fight. While we're demanding equitable funding for basic needs, congress consistently undermines and devalues educators and the public education system. Even though we're struggling to even keep the lights on in some districts, some people out there actually think the only way to stop school shootings is to bring more guns into schools. Despite the fact that it's been proven time and time again that more guns do not make us safer, this idea that teachers need to arm themselves further normalizes school shootings and is incredibly dangerous.
I went to school to teach children how to arm themselves with language and knowledge, not so they could see their teacher shoot a prospective intruder. Beyond the ludicrous idea that teachers should be armed, we as educators have spent too much time having to think about, and prepare for, death in a place where so many lives are just beginning.
While we can scream into the ether that change needs to happen, the continued discrediting of teachers means I'm doubtful anything ever will. But I will never lose all hope. Because those same beautiful and amazing children we've taught all these years are so smart and brave. Between planning walkouts, petitioning politicians, and giving moving speeches demanding action, these children are changing this broken system. Support them, help them plan events and write grant proposals, and continue to teach them. They listen, they take action, and the future will be a hell of a lot safer because of them.
A Heartbroken Teacher