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Every day at recess, as my fourth grade students bound and yelp and swing and play, I grip a walkie talkie set to our school's emergency channel, hold my breath, and think, There's nothing I could do.

And yet, I scan everywhere, watching the rise behind where the boys play three-on-three touch football, watching the staircase sloping down to the pulsing swing set, watching the open field leading to a main thoroughfare for someone, anyone, to appear on the horizon.

I'm always watching. It never stops. This fear that someone may murder my children - someone with a weapon built for war, constructed to cut down a life effortlessly, without pause.

I'm always watching because, in America, I must.

I'm always watching not because I am overly neurotic, or unreasonably skittish. I'm always watching because these shootings happen every year (62 in the last 30 years), and are increasing. I'm always watching because the vast majority of these shootings are carried out by a lone person who has legally obtained an assault rifle or semi-automatic firearm. I'm always watching because, as an American teacher, it's become one of my central responsibilities: not just to teach my students, but to protect them from those who may want to kill them.  

Perhaps this is due somewhat to the fact that I teach at a Jewish school, a place I fear could be a target. Perhaps it's due to my past, traumatic experience with those who have tried to kill the people closest to me, the people I love.

Then again, perhaps it's due to the fact that America, under the influence of the NRA and the gun lobby in general, has become one of the most violent countries in the world, using the Second Amendment as cover for Americans - civilians - to have a Constitutional right to military-grade weapons.

But this isn't a Constitutional issue. It is a money issue. And because of the NRA's monetary might, its ability to purchase politicians, its ability to influence public discourse, 20 students in Connecticut are dead. Not because Americans have the right to own guns, a right I support. But because American citizens have the right to own guns meant for the slopes of Afghanistan or the training fields of Fort Bragg.

Which is why, every morning when I arrive at school, I lock my already-unlocked classroom door, testing to make sure the key works, the lock works, before unlocking it again and preparing for the morning.

I do this in case it must be locked. Quickly. Locked to keep out someone with a weapon no civilian should legally have access to or own. Locked to save the children I love from those terrors which are increasingly encroaching upon our normative lives.

This is the burden of teaching today. A burden I carry heavily.

Originally posted to Writing by David Harris Gershon on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 07:52 AM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions.

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Comment Preferences

  •  As an aside, here is the brilliance of my 8th (19+ / 0-)

    grade students, whose work I publish in an online journal. (These are interpretations of the Book of Samuel.)

    I love them.

    I'm "THE" Troubadour," and not "Troubadour" without the article. We're different people here at DK :)

    by David Harris Gershon on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 07:46:22 AM PST

  •  I'm just a student teacher now (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    4CasandChlo, asterkitty, speak2me

    so I need to get buzzed into my school.

    And I lady. One very sweet lady at a desk with the buzzer and the visitor passes. How easy would it be to get in, take that one sweet lady out, and then have a completely clear shot at the (always very populated) library, straight ahead? The same library where you can almost always find me during prep periods (when I'm not consulting with my cooperating teacher) because I can spread out my stuff down there? (I teach high school English--I have a lot of papers to spread out!)

    It would be extremely easy to get into this school. Even if someone heard you take out the front-desk lady, the library is right there. With glass windows. Any sort of weapon that doesn't require reloading and you've got a very large massacre on your hands.


    "Maybe: it's a vicious little word that could slay me"--Sara Bareilles

    by ChurchofBruce on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 08:17:06 AM PST

  •  Heart wrenching; Thank you (4+ / 0-)

    I am a father of a 5 year old little girl and I do all I can to protect her.

    I can't imagine the commitment and the love you must have for dozens of little boys and girls.

    And I never fully appreciate how much this permeates your profession day to day.

    But I do now.  Thanks.  I am reticent to put yet another responsibility upon teachers, so - when we parents start demanding that our children's right to safe schools trumps a right to a militarized weapon, I know who will be in our corner, as teachers always are - fighting to protect our children.

    Blessed are the peacemakers, the poor, the meek and the sick. Message to Repug Fundies: "DO you really wonder "what would Jesus do?" I didn't think so.

    by 4CasandChlo on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 08:18:57 AM PST

  •  I'm faculty at a flagship public university (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    In the time I've been in my job, we've had several instances where adult students have threatened our safety. One of these students has a conceal carry permit, but currently no firearms are permitted on campus. As a precaution, I no longer receive mail at my home. I use a PO box. I've changed my cell phone number twice and dropped my listed landline. We have coded locks on 2 of the 3 doors into our department. We have to leave the main doors unlocked because we are a teaching program and that requires a community based speech and hearing clinic which is housed in the department.

    One of the ways the university has chosen to save money is by eliminating student conduct services. There are very few resources for us to call upon when students become erratic anymore.

    Now, the legislature here is considering a conceal carry law much like Michigan. If it passes and becomes law, the day before it takes effect will be my last day of employment. I have that little bit of flexibility thanks to the right to work law here. I will not stand in front of a classroom of students who may be armed. I will not provide or supervise speech language therapy in rooms less than 100 square feet with adults who may be armed around their own or other people's children.

  •  When I taught at an inner city school, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    we were only a few blocks from the county jail.  Only once in two years were we put on lock-down for an escape, but it brought up some questions from my 5th and 6th graders.  

    They wanted to know what I could do to keep them safe.  I told them all the procedures that were in place, but they still had a lot of "what if" worries.  I explained that if someone got through all the safeguards we had in place, I would protect them with my life.  The person would have to go through me to get to them.  That seemed to satisfy this bunch of kids who lived with violence and tragedy every day.

    Your diary is  wonderfully-written, but it's a sad commentary on what teachers and kids have to deal with today.  I pray for a time when we can teach and kids can play without fear of anything worse than a broken arm or scraped knee.

    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

    by luckylizard on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 09:20:51 AM PST

  •  Sorry, it's not the way to live life (0+ / 0-)

    Even with the lax gun control laws which need to be strengthened, the chances of the kids in your school being shot down are still pretty low, even if the low number is higher than it deserves to be. THere are more school kids in innercities exposed to crime, destructive influences and gang violence(of which the gun culture is a big part of )  that harm them more than the danger of a crazy guy gunning down kids in a school.

    We can't live life scared. I just think the TSAing of our schools is just not a good thing.

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