One week prior to the return of students, teachers, like myself, sat through our usual trainings and prepared for the upcoming school year. The week once included learning new techniques to keep students engaged, socializing and forming a camaraderie with fellow teachers, and finding ample time to set up classrooms that screamed "welcome" back new to new kids. There was once a time when the concept of "back to school" simply meant crisp fallen leaves, sharpened pencils, and new backpacks.
This year, was a bit different. The joy was overshadowed by active shooter trainings, Stop the Bleed instruction, and physically rehearsing what to do in a lockdown situation.
In 2019’s America, these are things that teachers must prepare for, much to our torment. I can’t help but feel increasingly angry while I’m being shown how to use a tourniquet on a child who is bleeding out, or sitting through a simulation of an active shooter on campus. Why are we accepting this as our new way of life?
I’ve been teaching middle school for five years, and during that time I have had to take many trainings and courses to prepare for the worst. Our training this year, however, was one of the most horrifying moments in my teaching career. Our local police force brought student volunteers to act out an active shooter situation. Sitting in the library with the entire staff, gunshots were fired somewhere outside. Students were screaming, running, falling in front of the library windows. A student was banging on the door to be let in, while the shooter held a gun to her head. He shot her, and then himself.
We were stunned into silence. Tears were running down the faces of almost every person in the room. Then, we were walked outside. We were made to walk over the “dead” bodies that littered the hallways. All in the name of “preparation”.
This wasn’t real. This was an act. A simulation. Play. And even so, those images and sounds are seared into my mind, and all I can think of is the heartache of the teachers and students who saw these same things in actuality.
After this, before we came back to school on Monday, what happened? There were two mass shootings, El Paso and Dayton, in the span of 10 hours in our country.
We cannot accept this. I shouldn’t have to spend the first week of school showing the students where to hide if a murderer is coming for us. My 12-year-olds, or any student, shouldn’t have to ask me where to go if there is a shooter and he/she is in the bathroom. We shouldn’t have to see bulletproof backpacks on Back to School racks. Going to work and school every day shouldn’t be a gamble.
No one would disagree with this, right? Yet we are still letting politics and ego dictate the safety of our children. And for all of the people out there who got to this line and are yelling at your screen, “you can’t take away my guns!” and “our forefathers protected us with the 2nd amendment!” I hear you, and I say back to you, loud and clear, NO ONE IS TRYING TO TAKE
AWAY YOUR RIGHT TO A GUN. Don’t get your holster in a bunch. If you are a hunter, if you want a gun for your own protection, whatever, I agree with your right to have one. BUT, I do not think you should be able to walk into a store on a whim and walk away with a military grade weapon without an adequate vetting process.
If you have nothing to hide, you shouldn’t be afraid of a background check. If you have a history of violence and crime, you probably shouldn’t be able to own a gun. If you are mentally ill, you shouldn’t be able to own a literal killing machine. And there are zero reasons for any American to own a military-grade weapon unless they are in the military. I genuinely do not understand why we can’t agree on this issue.
I’m not naive enough to think that this will stop all gun violence, but it’s a start. We can’t just continue to do nothing. Sending “thoughts and prayers” every other week to another victim, another family, another mother and father and sister and brother and friend, is not helping anyone. Blaming gun violence on movies and video games is a scapegoat. Violent people can still be violent without guns, yes, but giving them a tool to fire multiple bullets per second, potentially resulting in numerous deaths per second, is indefensible. If we want to keep pretending that we are the greatest country on earth, maybe we should start by protecting our children. And at the very least, we should want to show our children that this is something worth fighting against.