At every fire drill since then, I remember that dream, and wonder how I will react when there is a shooting in my school. Not if, when.
My job as a teacher is full. I teach reading and writing and thinking and history and literature and test-taking and vocabulary and poetry and analysis. And that’s just the content. I also teach ideas, and help young adults figure out what they believe about the world around them and the inside of their own minds. I listen to them discover who they are, with their whole lives rolling in front of them like a path shrouded by fog. I love what I do, and I take my responsibility seriously. I know I have been entrusted by parents with what they hold most dear – their babies. They may be teenagers, but they are their parents’ babies.
Sadly, my responsibility is also to protect their lives. So in addition to preparing lessons and grading papers, I also prepare for the day when I will see who I truly am. When a shooter comes, will I protect my students? Will I offer up my own life if given the option? Will I be brave and selfless? Will I think about my own two daughters who a shooter will leave motherless? Will I try to reason with a shooter? Will I remain calm?
For this is the world every teacher lives in. This is what those in charge - the politicians and gun sellers and gun makers and gun ownership supporters – need me to do. I’m not a politician or someone involved in buying or selling guns. My work is not to fix that problem. My work is to protect children when the cowardice of those people shows up in my school.
Not one class in graduate school prepared me for this. I was never told about the frustrating charade of Lockdown Drills, which every single person involved knows won’t do a thing to keep us calm and organized and safe in the face of a single angry man with a gun. But what else are we to do? Schools just aren’t made to fight these kinds of battles.
Teachers need other people to fight those battles for us. We prepare to protect your babies. Can you please, please help us by doing whatever you believe you can to keep guns away from our schools? Lots of people have lots of different ideas about how to do this. I don’t know who’s right. But when the shooter comes, I’ll be the one with your child behind me, and you’ll be the one wondering if you did enough to stop that day from coming.
When that day comes, when my nightmare comes true, I promise to protect your child in any way I can. Until then, I pray for courage, and I pray for those with the power to make change, to have courage also.