So December 2013 is another month marked by yet another school shooting. It’s almost commonplace now yet as I looked around the excited faces of our middle schoolers at their annual basketball pep rally this afternoon, it’s unimaginable. I cannot envision one of them turning on their classmates and teachers with a deadly weapon. I cannot picture an armed intruder entering our school.
And I don’t want to.
After Brock heard about the latest incident on the news, he brought up the idea of doing some pro bono training for teachers. This is a man who has made his life’s passion about protection and defense. I have no doubt that his empty hands against a gun would at least result in a fight. He wants to share his expertise so that teachers could be better prepared. I appreciate and understand his motivation and intent.
But I don’t want to.
I don’t like assuming the role of a security officer at school. I am stretched enough as teacher and counselor and social worker and nurse and cheerleader. And playing police defeats those other roles. The roles I signed up for. I don’t know if I possess the capacity for the duplicity required. Middle schoolers don’t respond to clinical detachment; you have to form relationships. But how do you build a relationship at the same time you train how to take them out? Perhaps it is something that can be learned.
ButI don’t want to.
It makes Brock upset. And, I’m sure, scared every time he hears those reports. He knows techniques and strategies that could potentially help. It frustrates him that I don’t want to learn those operations. But I don’t know if I can and continue to work in my role as a teacher.
I never learned this in school. I was taught how to attack curriculum, not people. I was taught how to motivate kids, not take out adversaries. I learned how to break apart the processes of math, not the bones of others. I am sure I could learn these other lessons, these techniques more suited to SWAT than pep rally.
But I don’t want to.
Maybe it’s my way of keeping my head in the sand. Keeping the possibility at a safe enough distance. Maybe it’s because being a teacher is overwhelming enough and I can’t imagine adding another layer to balance. Perhaps I’m just not made of the right stuff to be able to respond tactically in chaos. Maybe it seems futile because I can not (will not?) dedicate the time needed for real training.
I don’t know.
But I do know that these reports always shake me to the core.
The hard slap of reality delivered with a frightening regularity.
I do know it makes me want to hug my students.
And assure them they’re not alone.
I do know it changes the way I feel, walking into my job every day.
It puts the little things in perspective.
I just read an article today that discussed the first national summit on school shootings. Those involved were trying to come with a profile that would fit the classic perpetrator. And basically, what they came up with was a pretty typical teenage boy. Not necessarily a loner, no more likely to come from a single parent home. Just a kid.
The kind that move through my classroom every day by the dozens.
I don’t want to view each of those kids as a potential shooter.
What I can do is try my best to see each one as an individual. To build relationships. To reach out. To listen. To get help when needed. To reassure and motivate. To build community and trust.
I may not know how to wrestle a gun from someone’s hands. But maybe I can do a little bit to keep it from those hands in the first place.
And hope that is enough.