Today, as too many times before, I walked into our classroom and tried to figure out what we could use to protect ourselves, what we could use to barricade the door, what I would need to help my students escape through our second story window. How we would survive in the case of an active shooter.
As colleagues drifted in we discussed the news; another school shooter, more lives lost, more teachers portrayed as heroes as they shielded students with the only thing they had; their bodies. And we looked around our rooms and we shuddered at the realization that really the only thing we can hope for is a lucky break if someone decides that our school is the next target. That the only thing we can cling our hope on is that if a shooter was to enter through the front entry, then we perhaps would have enough time to get out simply because of our location in our school.
And as I watched students come to class, ready for another day to learn, I was surprised at their lack of talk about it. One child finally brought it up, telling me she had seen the videos recorded from Snapchat. How it was hard to watch and I wondered; have our students become used to this new reality where we don’t do just fire drills but also active shooter drills? Where my 5-year-old kids come home to tell me how they sat really quiet in the corner so that the bad man wouldn’t hear them. How is this our nation?
Last night I sent out the following tweet and all day today the replies have poured in. Comments from fellow teachers telling me what they have for weapons in the classroom (nuts and bolt, fire extinguishers, bats, golf clubs or anything else they can get their hands on), how they plan on getting out, what they plan to use to barricade the door. How their doors lock from the outside, how their kids won’t know how to stay quiet and hide. How they know as special ed teachers that they more than likely will have to shield their kids because they may not be able to get out. How they are training their students to run around the gunman in case they are taken out. How they cannot fathom how this is our reality in the United States, because, guess what, it is not the reality for teachers anywhere else in the world, not at this scale.
My husband told me he would be purchasing a rope ladder and window hammer for me to keep in my classroom. That he would think of something to send in with me in case I needed to defend myself but I couldn’t help but think; what good will a bat do against an AR-15?
We are working in a public school system where our funding is being depleted and our class sizes are going up, leaving us less time to connect with each child, leaving us less time to really get to know the kids we have in our care. We live in a country where mental health services are being slashed and those who desperately need more care, cannot get it. We are living in a country where protecting gun rights is more important than protecting human lives. And we are told to not make this political but how can we not when it seems the only response we have in America is to send thoughts and prayers?
And so this morning, as I entered our classroom, I realized, again, that as much as I want to live to be old, I would also shield my students with my body if I had to. That I would stand in the line of fire if I need to because that is now also a part of my responsibility. That my students lives matter more than my own.
So today I put on a brave face in front of my students, even if every little out-of-the-ordinary noise made me flinch. Even if I thought about every student I have ever taught and whether I did enough for them to make sure they felt known, like they mattered, and not like they should come back for revenge. And I was scared.
I am scared.
Because I don’t want to be a hero.
I want to be alive.
I want to see my own children grow up.
I want to see them graduate.
Fall in love.
I want to be a grandmother some day.
Be called mormor and tell stories of back in the day.
I want to retire and hold hands with my husband by the ocean someday while the world passes us slowly by.
To take my last breath surrounded by my family, not in my classroom.
But I may not get that dream if we don’t change the way our laws work.
How many more children will have to die for us to do something?