9:00 a.m., PST. Mar. 22,2018: Today, in the aftermath of the slaughter of 14 high school students and 3 faculty members, you made an impassioned pitch to a group of state officials meeting in the White House. There you peddled the idea of arming teachers as a way of “hardening” schools against assault rifle-toting intruders bent on murderous mayhem.
As you spoke, you created a fantastical scenario in which Gen. John Kelly was teaching history and saved students by blowing away such a gunman with a weapon conveniently at hand. Your justification for it is that it’s “much less expensive” than hiring armed guards … “and it looks better.” It looks better? I guess you meant, “less like a prison.” But Donald, how many “John Kellys,” with years of training in the use of lethal weapons, do you think there are in the teaching profession? This idea is ludicrous. Save kids' lives on the cheap? NO!
I worked in public high schools for more than 30 years, first as a teacher, then as a counselor. Let me tell you about the typical high-school teachers day:
She arrives, occasionally before daybreak, to prepare. She’s thinking about things like why her students didn’t perform better on the test she graded the night before, what she can do to help the girl in 1st period whose mother died a few days earlier, how she’s going to deal with the 4th- period troublemaker bent on new and ingenious ways of disrupting the class, whether the lesson plans that looked so good last night are going to work as well as she wants for her struggling 6th- period students.
Arriving at her room, she arranges her papers for the day, makes a couple of changes on her 3rd- period seating chart, and jots a few last-minute notes before she goes to the office to check her mailbox where she picks up a slip asking her to call a parent before second period. On the way back to her room she calls the parent and schedules a conference for immediately after school.
The rest of her day is punctuated by bells, students shuffling in, students shuffling out, taking attendance, asking questions, answering questions, returning papers, lecturing, supervising group work, monitoring behavior and attention spans, reading non-verbal cues from 35 (sometimes more) students to assess engagement and understanding, deciding mid-stream how to modify her plans based on the reactions of her students, helping students who’ve been absent get caught up … and on and on and on.
A teacher is expected to be an information provider, disciplinarian, assessor of achievement, administrator, role model, facilitator, and surrogate parent. Adding “gun-toting first responder” to the mix makes no sense.
According to teachthought, a website providing resources and training for instructors, a teacher often makes more than 1,500 decisions a day. That sounds impossible, I know, but presumably it includes things like deciding in the middle of a lecture to move and stand near a disruptive student (a sure-fire way to stop undesirable behavior) instead of calling him out or deciding to review a concept students don’t seem to have grasped instead of moving on as planned—in other words the kinds of decisions teachers make instinctively on the fly.
Speaking to a group a few days after the massacre of 17 people at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, you opined that allowing teachers to carry concealed weapons would deter further attacks and “solve the problem instantly.”
No, Donald, it wouldn’t. Teachers are trained to teach. They’re frequently in motion, walking about the room as they lecture, assisting science students with lab work, roaming the art room to offer feedback here and there. They’re focused on two things: their students and their subject matter--and the interface between the two. Teachers aren’t standing in the front of the classroom, eyes on the door, arms at the ready.
To think that a teacher, even with training, is our best deterrence and a realistic defense against an armed intruder in the chaos of automatic gunfire and frightened students shows an appalling disconnect from the real world, Donald.
Listen to those Parkland students. They're thoughtful, articulate, poised, and remarkably mature. You might do well to emulate them. Enough said.
The Vocal Voter