Mrs. Y Reporting for Duty

Over the years, the job of a teacher has slowly evolved. We are counselors, therapists, parents, and oh so much more. We never complain or compromise because we love our students as if they were our own. But now, in the wake of the school shooting in Florida, when did teachers become soldiers too?

Over the past week, I have seen various Facebook posts and news articles about how the solution to our problem is to have teachers conceal and carry weapons in their classroom. I have had several people, parents and students included, approach me and ask me if I would consider doing this.

Let me start by saying there are so many things wrong with this idea I don’t even know where to begin. First of all, I’m 5’0 and close (enough) to 100 lbs. If any of my students (or anyone else in the school for that matter) wanted to overtake me to grab my gun it would take little effort.

Second of all, the suggestion of 156 guns floating around the school would only put us at more risk. Teachers multitask enough between helping students, grading papers, and holding our bladders. Keeping track of a gun is just another thing teachers don’t need to add to the list. All it takes is one teacher to lose track of theirs to put the whole school in danger. I can’t even keep track of my pen for an entire block, forget about a gun.

Also, why do we have an inherent trust of all teachers everywhere? How many news reports have we seen of teachers being convicted predators and criminals? I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to see any of them with a gun.

I’m not even for it being option for teachers. What kind of message would it send to my students that I could have a gun to protect them but I chose not to? How can I expect my students to feel they are in a safe learning environment knowing they can be safer? They would feel betrayed.

And I know this because I could sense the betrayal when my students asked me if I would conceal and carry and I said no.

Instead I told my students my opinion on the matter and that it is not my job to protect them to this extent. The school already has a protocol in place and that’s what I would follow. I went to school to learn math so I could teach them and part of my teaching exam did not involve boot camp (because trust me, if it did, I would not have been hired).

And that’s when a student responded, “that’s the same thing as being a shop owner and someone comes in and starts shooting your customers and you don’t do anything to protect them.” I responded that just like me, that’s not their job. And he said “so you’re saying it’s ok to stand by and watch and not do anything about it.”

Here’s the thing, I love each of my students dearly. Would I take a bullet for them? Would I stand in the line of fire for them? I really don’t know. It’s hard to say what anyone would do in the moment. It’s hard to even say that if I had a gun I would think to pull it out in that split second. But I am positive that I would do anything in my power to protect them.

But there’s a difference between what I would do and being told what I must do.

I cannot imagine being a teacher at one of these schools and watching one of your students get hurt right in front of your eyes and feeling like you should have done something more to protect them. Because that’s who we are as teachers, it’s how we are built.

But we are not soldiers. We are not human shields. We did not go to school to become body guards. We are educators and society has seriously lost sight of this.

What upsets me above all else, more than having to tell my students that I didn’t love them enough to protect them by carrying a gun, is that I was put in this situation to begin with because society thinks this is a perfectly reasonable request. And this reveals a deeper problem about what people think of teachers.

Why have we completely glossed over practical solutions like increasing the amount of security we have in schools and gone straight to putting teachers in the line of fire? While we are busy protecting our students, who will protect us? What you may see as me being able to protect myself with a weapon, I see as putting a target on my back. And the reason you may not see it this way is because society stopped seeing teachers as human beings a long time ago.

When is society going to start caring about the well being of their teachers?

I couldn’t even begin to count how many times I have seen the words “mental health” over the past week. Criminals, victims, parents, but what about the teachers? When are we going to care about the mental health of teachers who wear so many hats day in and day out? Now we are being asked to put on camouflage to be thrown into battle with no shield?

Enough is enough. Teachers are people too. We may love these students as much as our own but they are not our own. “Our own” are waiting for us to come home at the end of the day. Society has taken advantage of the love and affection we have for our students and is attempting to once again manipulate us. We will do whatever we can to protect our students but it is not our moral obligation to take a bullet for our students and it is not ok for anyone to make us feel like it is.

All students are entitled to an education, but none of them are entitled to my life.

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