Editor’s note: News of mass shootings like the Dec. 2 attack in San Bernardino, California, contribute to a heightened alert that is felt in schools across the nation, where lockdown drills are now routine and teachers are forced to take on a new role in the classroom: bodyguard.
Charlie Gaare is a high school English teacher in Denver. Gaare’s school went into lockdown this week after reports of an armed person near campus. Police searched the school for weapons, prompting Gaare to write down her thoughts on how gun violence has affected her life as a teacher.
Here’s the thing they don’t teach you when you’re going to school to be a teacher. There will be days where you have to think about how you are going to fit three adult-sized children into a glass cupboard and cover yourself with desks in order to protect the four of you. They don’t tell you that there’s going to be days where you are going to have a SWAT team member come in and put a gun in your face. They don’t tell you in 12 years time there will be more school shootings than you can remember or maybe even count. They don’t tell you that you are going to worry consistently about the day where it’s not going to be just a false alarm. They don’t tell you that you will eventually hate guns more than almost anything else. They don’t tell you that in equal measure, you will worry about how to protect kids at the expense of your own life, and worry about protecting kids from themselves.
Here’s the thing. Across America thousands upon thousands of teachers will go to school, and they will be the kind of people who on a bad day will throw themselves in front of our children to protect them. Never in all of the school shootings have we heard about a teacher who ran or fled from a shooter in order to protect themselves.
Every time incidents of school-related violence occur, my colleagues and I think of the numerous ways we might one day have to use our bodies as barricades to protect the students whom we love dearly from potential other students whom we also love so dearly.
Our world has gorged itself on violence, and we are sitting back and watching it get sick with it. Our culture is so hell-bent on being worried about a man having the right to an item intended to kill than they are about actually upholding the protection they claim guns give them. And every single one of your children’s teachers shows up every day and is ready to try and prevent, even just a little bit, the decay that continues to eat away at us, to take a bullet from the monster we have made.
This may all come across as self-righteous and indignant, but I would like to know how many other people go to work and have to think about the moment that they are going to have to lay their body down in front of other people’s children to make sure they are safe? How many other people have to think about escape routes and safety spots and whether a school desk would protect them from a bullet?
Teachers are not police officers or firemen or members of the military who are trained to deal with dangerous situations like this. We are people who are trained how to get people to think, so that is what I am doing. I’m not going anywhere anytime soon because I will always love my kids enough to want to be the one between them and a bullet, but this also wasn’t in the job description.