Rant and Ramble Alert.
I read that the teachers from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School went back to school Friday. I can’t fathom their emotion. I’ve tried to empathize, I want to feel what they felt. I’ve never feared for my life in a school or at an athletic event. I probably should have been fearful but wasn’t. I’ve tried to reach inside of myself and find a situation where I was as scared as they must have been…and are. I’ve waded into fights, made small talk with angry parents and been called into the principal’s office. In my memory, I can’t find one instance of terror. Is it bad for me to feel a certain elation for never having been that afraid?
For those of you who don’t know, I spent forty-three years teaching and coaching in the public-school system of South Carolina. I’m in my third year of retirement although I took long-term substitute assignments the first two years…I guess this is my first full year of retirement. The most fearful I’ve been in a school was a two-hour tornado warning my first year teaching. I spent two hours in an underground, mildewed book depository at Gallman Junior High School with ninety or so seventh graders as a tornado wreaked havoc between Newberry and Greenwood. I didn’t fear for my life. Yes, I did fear for my sanity…but not for my or my student’s lives.
I can’t imagine what those teachers felt…walking into the school again. I wonder about those teachers who taught on the second and third floors. Surely, they will be moved to other areas.
The children will return soon…some of them. I have seen several expressing their doubts. If my child came to me and told me, “I can’t go back,” what would I do? I couldn’t force her to go back and live with myself.
I see people have jumped on the “arm our teachers” bandwagon. I don’t know. More guns? So many questions. Teachers haven’t had the resources and the respect to do their jobs for a while now. Now we are going to add to their already, heavy burdens?
I question the safety of a classroom with a gun in it. I question if a marginally trained teacher with a handgun can stand up to an assassin with a military-style weapon bent on murder. I wonder what that teacher will do with their students while pegging away at a moving target that is pegging back at them. I worry about the children who might be caught in the crossfire.
Three teachers died in this attack attempting to save young people. I wonder I would have been up to it. I’m glad I never had to find out.
The police and our military personnel make the choice to take their lives into their own hands and carry a weapon as a way of life. While I commend the police and our military personnel, teachers make the choice to teach. We are called to nurture, foster, and mold…not shoot. We are supposed to train, raise, educate and uplift…not take the life of another. Now we must decide, are we willing to fight fire with fire, six guns blazing. I just don’t know.
Here in South Carolina, we already have a teacher’s shortage…an estimated six thousand this coming year. One of the reasons is the state can’t afford to pay the oldsters willing to come back and teach after retirement. Older folk forced out and young people who don’t seem to see teaching as a very uplifting profession these days. It might be the GoFundMe pages I see from teachers trying to raise money for their classes. Exotic stuff like pencils, notebooks, and calculators. Now it has been suggested to pay bonuses for gun-toting teachers. I see the teaching shortage increasing along with the class sizes we are instructed to “teach and protect.” What sane person wants to train to take a bullet while being disparaged, disrespected and undervalued? I just don’t know.
I am angry, I’m sure you can tell. I’m angry at the society which has created this culture and I don’t know how we’ve gotten on this path. I am angry at the gun culture I have been a part of. I’m angry at law enforcement who could have nipped this shooter before he became a shooter. I’m angry at the NRA and the gun industry that has enough money to make a difference but instead chose to buy the Congress I am angry with. I am angry at adults who undervalue the opinions of young people and post hurtful memes or attempt to discredit survivors who were there. I am angry because people in positions to make law are unwilling to have a conversation about smart and consistent gun control. I am angry because people in positions to make law are unwilling to have a conversation about the problem being more than just smart and consistent gun control. Finally, I’m angry that white males are the mentally ill ones and no one seems to want to do anything about it…or even recognize it is a problem. I’m angry many people. I don’t believe any of them are the teachers and the students.
I’m going out to walk now. Maybe I can walk off my anger or at least quiet my mind. Maybe an answer will come to me. I will pray for an answer but so far there is only silence and my own anger.
Don Miller’s writer’s page can be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM