This is a Gun-free Zone
Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas and Texas Governor Rick Perry have suggested in the wake of the December 14 Sandy Hook massacre of 26 women and children by the deranged son of a gun nut that teachers should carry guns. Pistol-packin' administrators and teachers, they have said, could have prevented the slaughter of babies in Newtown last week.
Thus are the administrators and teachers of Sandy Hook School responsible for the deaths of 20 children and six adults because they did not pack heat.
Talk about cashing in on a crisis.
It's also not possible. Teachers are in the business of building relationships among students and between children and adults. We are about building trust. There is no "do this or die" in the lesson plan.
In fact, the lesson plan is all about ultimately teaching a student that he or she is totally responsible for him or herself. The point is, we, the teachers, are helpless at controlling behavior. Ultimately, only the student can do that. Our job is to convince a child that everything about life makes being good stewards of our power over ourselves absolutely essential.
Being a teacher means being open to our students, their families, administrators, the guy on the street, the latest theory on education published in some obscure journal, our families, and the phases of the moon. We make a thousand decisions a day and adapt our every move to the needs and the moods of our students at any given moment. Being a teacher means loving life by being available to the people in front of us in any given moment. No teacher worth her salt has the time to practice taking life. Any teacher who feels the need to do that needs to find a different career.
Teaching is demanding work that is often belittled by yahoos who have no idea what it is to be responsible for 100+ children and to interact with 100+ adults every day to get the job done. I'm willing to bet my eye teeth the staunchest advocates of arming teachers and protecting the (bizarre) right to bear arms can count the number of meaningful relationships in their own lives on one hand. I'm willing to bet, too, that they' d shrivel up and die if they had to put their heart on the line day in and day out for young people who depended on them to be kind and understanding, reasonable and intelligent.
But I’m just a girl looking at the soft side of things. Let’s be real and talk about the dollars that must be a part of the arming-the-teachers conversation. If you expect me to carry a gun, then my school district will have to buy it the same way it has to buy textbooks, computers, paper, and the like.
Except that I don't have a textbook. Nor do I have student computers. Nor do I have paper.
Should the gun project you are proposing sap funds from the purchase of textbooks and other resources? And all that training. Should teachers' professional development be spent on practice at the rifle range? Or should we work on ways to help kids become effective communicators, that they might understand this world better?
Further, how shall I lock up your gun? The only thing in my classroom that locks is the door with a big window. Nobody can find the keys to my desk, and somebody else removed the lock to my cabinet. I live on trust. So I have no place for the gun you want to buy me.
And I’m doing fine.
Teachers live to build lives, to encourage young people to believe in themselves and the people around them, to be confident that their intellectual gifts, once refined and polished, will get them through any kind of trouble. Our conversations aren't about ending life when we're good and pissed with someone who disagrees with us but about building meaning in life by dealing with those points of disagreement in constructive, thoughtful ways. The “I feel you,” and “Feel me?” lingo of the hour are current for a reason.
Think about that.
Teaching is about trying and giving and believing that every day is good because we're here. It's about heart. We can't do this work with the threat of death strapped to our sides or in our desks that don't lock anyway because the keys were lost sometime during the Eisenhower era.
We teach because we love life. Bury your dinosaurs, gun people. Take a little break from the dark side and join us. We’ll read to you, talk to you, draw a picture with you. We have cookies, and we care. And that’s what we teach.