I’ve been a teacher for more than 30 years. I did my student teaching in 1989 but I was in 19 classrooms a month as far back as 1986. When I started teaching, I thought nothing at all about safety. Sure, we told the kids not to hit each other, kept the matches for birthday candles hidden away, and had a whole procedure for getting kids around safely during field trips. But we never thought about guns.
That changed when I went to Chicago and taught in a terrible neighborhood. We had to bring an off duty police officer (a precursor to the SROs) when we took the kids outside to build a snowman. There was no outdoor recess. But that was because of the possibility of gunfire in the neighborhood. We never considered that a gun might be aimed AT US. AT THE CHILDREN! Of course not!
Today it is an ever-present possibility. Now they target children. And teaches. And administrators. And everyone.
At my previous school I spent 5 years working in a portable with zero protection from intruders. Walls that were practically made of aluminum foil and no fences or gates to keep anyone out. I felt much safer when we moved into the building, but my classroom was the first one at the top of the stairs, so I didn’t feel that much safer.
At my current job, I have recess duty with a fantastic and occasionally frustrating group of 7th and 8th graders every afternoon. I am very conscious of how close the field and playground are to the street. We’ve expelled students this year and some of them were angry when they left. Some parents are angry at the administrators, teachers and students at the school. Our school parking lot is open to the public, and I feel that lack of safety every time I leave the building. So far it has been fine.
This week we’re having field day celebrations at different times for different grades. I was in charge of the bouncy house for pre-K and kindergarten rotations and parents were welcome. I don’t know any of the parents and was a bit nervous to see them so close to all the kids. It was fine. Of course it was fine. It always is. Right? Right?
It wasn’t fine this morning at a school in Uvalde. Those teachers could not keep themselves and their students safe. Because they were targeted.
On my current campus, every classroom has a safety lock, which is a huge improvement over the practice of moving bookcases to block the door.
But we are still unsafe.
Until state and federal republican lawmakers stop blocking sensible gun control, we’ll never be safe.
I really want those little pre-K kids scrambling around the bouncy house this morning to graduate from high school one day. I want that for all the kids, whether I know them or not.