|2013-01-14||Steve Gardiner||Guns and Teachers|
In the aftermath of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary, teachers and schools everywhere have experienced strong reactions.
Within three days of Sandy Hook, two teenage boys in my town posted threats on Facebook and were promptly arrested. A day later, a 51-year-old man called 911 and said there would be a school shooting, then quickly hung up. He was arrested hours later. These two incidents, combined with the generic fear created by the Mayan end-of-the-world prediction on December 21 combined to make our week before Christmas break a nightmare.
Building doors were locked and guarded. Classroom doors were shut and locked. Visitor passes were restricted, then eliminated. Additional police walked the hallways. The open and friendly atmosphere that should exist in a school seemed to be locked away, as well, and by the end of the week, the tension over the above incidents kept almost half of our students, over 700 in all, home from school that Friday.
Parents were concerned. Students were frightened. Teachers were exhausted. We had all read about the horrific events at Sandy Hook, and I suppose, questioned if something similar could happen in our town, in our school. Conversations about Sandy Hook and our reaction to local events were everywhere. Were we doing enough? Were we overreacting? What happens next? How do we move forward with the business of education?
Over the next few days, letters to the editor streamed in to the local newspaper. They advocated for police in every school, metal detectors at the doors, serious gun legislation, and a host of other solutions. Frequently they also suggested that teachers should be trained to carry guns.
Perhaps the idea that schools are gun-free has added to the temptation for shooters to target them. Knowing there will be little resistance in the early stages of a school shooting might be an enticement to a sick mind making such plans. However, the idea of teachers with guns brings up many concerns.
Yes, response to a gunman in the building would be quicker, but as a teacher of 35 years, I cannot imagine walking into school carrying a gun. I can't even imagine having a gun locked in a drawer in my room. It's not just the logistics of protecting the gun at all times, it's a matter of who teachers are as human beings. While teachers reacted heroically at Columbine, Sandy Hook, and other locations to defend themselves and their students, people who enter teaching are centered on helping people.
A friend of mine who spent three years carrying a gun as a military policeman before his career as a teacher said he believes it could never work. He said that a person carrying a gun is constantly on the watch because that is his job. That does not mesh well with the mental focus needed to help a student solve a math problem or analyze a short story.
It may be possible to train teachers to handle and carry weapons, but I can't believe this is the answer. Throughout the existence of education, one of the primary responsibilities of teachers is to model the behavior we want to see in our students. Students learn from the way teachers speak and act, from the way we respond to each lesson, and from the attitudes we portray in the classroom. Modeling has always been a powerful part of instruction whether we plan for it or not, and I would not want my students learning from me that more guns is the solution to the problems in our society.