I don’t engage in arguments in Facebook. At least, not often. It often devolves into a metaphorical shouting match, and despite people’s claims that they are “looking to understand” or are trying to be “open minded,” I truly think very few opinions are changed on Facebook.
But. I love reading it all anyway.
Maybe it’s that same part of humans that loves reality TV: the drama. I also think that people are a little more direct in writing, so you can try to follow the discussion better than in person.
Naturally, the topic of the last several weeks has been the Parkland, Florida school shooting. And because I have many teacher-friends on Facebook, the topic shows up often. Specifically, the “solution” of arming teachers. I have read an extensive amount of Facebook argument on this particular topic. I have read both sides carefully, and resisted writing ALL CAPS, curse word-laden responses to some comments, in an effort to try to grasp the basic concept of both sides.
This is my conclusion.
DO NOT TRY TO ARM TEACHERS.
I hate emphasizing that. Like many others, I am fed up. I’m tired of the shootings, I am scared for my students and my colleagues and I’m devastated that this is the reality that I have to consider. Please, as a society, let’s try literally everything. Nothing has been done so far except practice scary and inaccurate drills. Obviously, we need to start implementing all the solutions we can think of and we need to start doing it fast.
But not this.
Let’s talk about why it won’t work, starting with rebutting the three main arguments.
“It will deter potential shooters. They’ll think twice if they know teachers are armed.”
I don’t know if you’ve been around a teenager lately, but high schoolers are idiots. I say that with all the love of a warm-hearted teacher. I love my kids, dearly. But they can be dumb. Student forget to bring pencils to class literally every day. They just ain’t thinking about whether people are armed. The kind of student who wants to shoot up a school is not thinking that far ahead, they’re just not.
“Arming teachers would give them a fighting chance of defending themselves and their students.”
1. I don’t have training. I’m not interested in getting training.
2. Even people who have training say that’s a terrible idea.
3. I would never be able to shoot a student. Not just because I’m certain that my aim would be shit in a situation like that, but also because I love my kids. I very much see my job as a nurturing one, coming from a place of extreme empathy and compassion. While I obviously cannot state what I would do in a “what if” situation, I have extreme doubts that I would be capable of shooting a child.
“Molly, you wouldn’t need a gun. Someone around you would need one. Just one or two in each school would make a huge difference.”
Yeah, that’s not how a school works. I don’t have a clue what is going on in my colleague’s classrooms. I teach next to the kind of teacher that during a lecture regularly shouts for effect. Regularly. I don’t even pay attention any more, because I assume it’s part of a lesson but I don’t really know. Do you know how quickly a shooting goes down? Seconds. Literally seconds. And having a teacher down the hall, or even next door, who has a gun isn’t going to solve a damn thing in the literal seconds.
I student taught at a school where teachers carried. Utah, man. Here’s the thing. In a faculty meeting at that school, we were told that if/when SWAT shows up during an active shooter situation, then make sure that you are not holding a gun because you will get shot. Well then, Utah policeman, WHAT IS THE DAMN POINT OF THE TEACHER’S GUN?
I would also like to point out that the teachers I liked the least were the ones packing. It was the teachers who hated students, who said things like, “That kid needs a good beating to shape him up.” They were the ones with the guns. And it made me incredibly uncomfortable to know that the least stable people in the room were the ones with the guns.
We are humans. Humans do stupid shit. I’m sick of people acting like teachers have to be a step above. I mean, in an ideal world, sure. You want the best type of people to be the type to teach your kid. But, like, that’s just not always the reality. I’ve known teachers that were definitely alcoholics, teachers with substance abuse problems, others (including myself) with their own mental health issues. I’ve been the teacher who didn’t sleep the night before and is running on empty. 99% of the time, teachers are amazing humans on their A-game. But on the day that a teacher is “off,” and something goes wrong in a classroom, do you really want that untrained or barely-trained individual to have a gun?
Setting aside the training issue, who would pay for it? My school didn’t have the budget to buy me a bookshelf. Where are they going to find the money to pay teachers a compensation adequate to ask them to defend a school?
Let’s also take a moment to talk about UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES.
For example, let’s talk about how scary it is when students start fighting. We need training to learn to just not intervene in a fight. What happens when a fight starts, a teacher is desperate to end it, and they have a gun on their belt? I’m NOT saying it will happen. I’m saying that teachers are humans and they are reactive, and sometimes teachers make poor choices.
What’s going to happen when kids do stupid shit and a teacher pulls their gun because they legitimately believe that it will solve the problem? Then we have a whole new debate on our hands.
What if a black teacher is carrying a gun when the SWAT team rushes in? What kind of fuel will that add to the fire?
We HAVE to do something.
Right now, I am socially expected to throw myself on a bullet for my students. Don’t get me wrong. If it comes down to it, I’ll take that damn bullet for a student. But I’m fucking pissed that it’s come to that.
I shouldn’t have to consider leaving my son behind because of my profession. I’m a teacher.
I signed up to teach. And some parts of teaching are shitty: the drama, the testing, the bureaucracy. Fine, I knew that was part of the job. I didn’t sign up for bullets. I just didn’t. I didn’t sign up to have them fired at me, I didn’t sign up to take one, I didn’t sign up to fire them. And fuck you, society, for acting like this (along with all the other shit I have to deal with) is also my, the teacher’s, responsibility.
It’s not fucking fair to put this on teacher’s shoulders. We already carry so many burdens, we are consistently told that we cannot do our job from all sides, and then all those sides add more to our burden. Anyone who has worked in a beaurocracy can tell you how the paperwork and demands mount. I face an innummable amount of challenges every day. I am not just responsible for the academic growth of my students. Assuming that is ludicrous. I am responsible for social growth, emotional growth, psychological growth. Politicians want me to do more, administration wants me to do more, parents want me to do more, in ALL of those areas. Now you want me to carry a gun into school? No. Just no. How about we listen to the teachers begging for more resources?
Let’s get moving. Let’s do everything. Let’s tighten gun laws, let’s beef up mental health supports. Let’s support parents and love kids and get resources to the individuals that can best use them (teachers). But don’t you dare try to put a gun in my hand.