What 1 Teacher Wants Parents to Know About School Shootings

Dear Grieving and Scared Parents,

It's been a very difficult few weeks — hell, a difficult few years — for everyone, and as a parent myself, I know what you're feeling. Frustration, worry, sadness, and fear are all growing inside you after hearing about yet another school massacre that claimed the lives of innocent children. It's impossible to separate the grief we feel for the families who have lost loved ones from the realization that this could happen to any of us.

As a parent, I mourn the unnecessary loss of life, but as a teacher, I'm filled with rage. When a parent drops their child off at my school, they are doing so with the understanding that their child will be protected in our care. School is supposed to be a safe place for all children, and the idea that someone can walk in with a legally-purchased semi-automatic weapon and rip that safety away is all the more heartbreaking.

Those children — your children — will always come first in my classroom.

In my five years as an educator, I've been through more lock down drills and safety training than I care to admit. While most teacher inservices and meetings are met with a healthy dose of disdain, I've never sat in a lock down drill that didn't have every teacher treat it with the respect it deserves. We learn the protocol, memorize what we're required to do, and recognize that it's truly a terrifying aspect of our jobs. But even after all that, we know nothing can prepare us for the real thing.

I've been in two real lock downs and two soft lock downs, where we were encouraged to lock our classroom door because the dangerous situation was off-campus and just near by. Despite how unabashedly goofy children can be, each and every one of my high school students took the lock down very seriously. While normally I can't get them to be quiet, I sat with 20 teenagers huddled in a dark and locked room behind my desk, each one silent, for over two hours.

The first thing teenagers do in this situation, before they check for information on Snapchat or Twitter, and even before they text their friends, is they almost always contact their parents. You, grieving and scared parents, are what your kids love more than anything else. I've seen normally stoic children look at me with tears in their eyes, hoping their teacher can make the situation more tolerable. While I can't control everything, I want you to know that those children — your children — will always come first in my classroom. I will help them, calm them, hide them, listen to them, and protect them as best I can.

When I get into a new classroom, one of the first things I think about when laying out my space is identifying hiding spots in case of a shooter. This is fueled partly by my own fear, but also the knowledge that it's become a very real part of our education experience. And until we see real change in this country, this will be as necessary to me as buying pencils until school shootings no longer happen.

With Love and Sadness,
A Frustrated Teacher in Mourning