My first day of teaching high school was September 11, 2001.
My educational training taught me that, on the first day of class, I needed to set a professional tone, establish ethos and create an inviting learning environment. But there was no training to prepare me to walk students through a terrorist attack.
I learned a lot that day. I learned about remaining calm, the difficulty of explaining terrorism to a generation unfamiliar with it, and recognizing the need to allow my students and myself time to reflect and respond to what happened.
I have, unfortunately, had many opportunities since 9/11 to reflect on best practices for teaching students who may be traumatized by violence. In the wake of the tragedy last week in Parkland, Florida -- just a few hours from where I now teach high school -- I have been reminded of the lesson I learned on day one of my career. I heard my own concerns reflected in the voices of my friends, students and colleagues: what should we do next?
It has been suggested that one possible solution is to arm teachers in the classroom with weapons of their own to deter any would-be terrorists from another attack.
How would that play out, exactly? Students take shelter in a closet or behind some desk, while I transform from economics teacher into trained soldier in a flash? Like Superman in a phone booth? In this hypothetical, on the days we aren't attacked by a terrorist -- and these active shooters are domestic terrorists; let's not mince words, here -- where would that firearm be kept? What happens if an unstable student or employee inside of the school gets hold of it? How safe would we be, then? Will we have created our own destruction?
Let's say we were able to address all of those concerns about securing weapons. How are we going to pay for the training and tools necessary for me to transform into this teacher-superhero-soldier? This year has been rife with budget cuts to education across the country. Teachers in West Virginia are currently walking out over pay and benefit cuts, and this is not a localized problem.
State budgets don't have the luxury of deficit spending and have been forced to lower the financial and physical resources of schools across the country. But you suddenly have the resources to pay for guns, bulletproof vests and training for every teacher in the nation?
If you're going to invest in teachers, then invest in the infrastructure that educates people about why violence is wrong. Invest in more school counselors who can help spot mental health issues. Invest in sensible gun reform laws that allow us to do our job without lockdown drills.
Don't invest time, money, and intellectual energy putting students and teachers in a crisis situation that may have been prevented in the first place. President Donald Trump said recently that he would consider offering an incentive to teachers who carry weapons on campus. Since he's suddenly found such a surplus, how about investing that money to pay teachers what they're worth?
As a public school teacher in Florida, I am concerned about the new responsibilities that have been placed upon us. The images that students sent from inside Stoneman Douglas High School raised fears and concerns for me about school shootings that have plagued our country for far too long.
During the day, teachers act as counselors, confidants, mentors, surrogate parents, moral directors, instructors and advisers to their students. And people want to add to that list?
As a parent of a public school student, I see the face of my child in the faces of my students. I want for them what I want for my own. I am a displaced Texan who owns guns for the purposes of hunting and believes in the Second Amendment, but I think adding tools of violence to an environment that is trying to prevent violence is counterintuitive.
We don't need guns on campuses. We need a culture of nonviolence.
We don't need just thoughts and prayers. We need meaningful legislative action.
We don't need rifles. We need resources.
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