The Hunger Games: A Teacher’s view on Mass School Shootings in America

As I began typing this post, an announcement was made over our school PA system. We were asked to stop and pause for a moment of silence in honor of the victims of Friday night’s mass school shooting at Santa Fe ISD.

I am many things. Before I was a mom, a wife, a one-time music video stylist, sometimes entrepreneur, at times guest speaker, I’ve always been a Texas girl.

More specifically a Texas teacher.

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I’ve been teaching for more than 17 years and I have strategically chronicled my experiences in the education field on this blog but never have I been shaken to the core as I was this past Friday morning when there was a mass shooting near my city.

About 80 miles from where I live to be exact.

The Santa Fe High School mass shooting really got to me. I don’t even know why because it’s not like it’s the first one. Maybe because it’s so close to home?  Add to the fact that I was at work…in my classroom when it happened. The stakes are also higher because I have my own baby registered for her first year of public school.

One of the things I keep hearing over and over whenever a mass shooting happens (the fact that I just had to type that is mind boggling in itself) is what we should do. I try to keep my political ideas at bay most times but this seems so simple to me. Vote the clowns out of office who are getting filthy rich by organizations like the NRA. Make it harder to get guns. So simple yet so hard.

So since my voice may not be heavily considered in the political debate, maybe my “teacher hat” will give me a leg to stand on. And so in light of YET ANOTHER mass shooting, here are three things you should never say to a teacher.

“You have the easiest job in the world. You get to teach kids all day.”

That once was true but we are now factoring in that a lot of our students have emotional baggage, mistrusts, ideals and philosophies that are often left unpacked? Try teaching creative writing to an eighth grader who regularly draws pictures of guns and explosives in the margins of their quizzes. Try correcting grammar in a sentence where the student is sharing that they are only happy when it rains or storms outside and that they don’t find joy unless they are sleeping. It is not easy.

“Maybe teachers should be allowed to legally carry guns to school.”

I want to let you in on something. Teachers come from all kinds of backgrounds and although the state does a fairly thorough job of weeding out those that may be of concern, that is not a foolproof system. I personally know that there are plenty of adults in the education field who are barely hanging on each day. Adding such a responsibility to an already stressful work environment even in the best of schools is just not the smartest idea. Plus, I don’t want to be caught in the crossfires of a shoot out between students and a teacher. People find it so convenient to funnel more money into preserving our rights to bear arms while I had to pay out of pocket to have books in my classroom so that my students could enjoy reading “The Hunger Games” a few years ago. (Although I’m starting to feel like the plot of Hunger Games in real time.)

“Well, you get the summers off. It’s not that bad.”

That will automatically get you an eye roll from any educator. The summers off are cool if the other 9 months of school wasn’t spent wondering if a troubled student, bullied student or an un-diagnosed student is going to blow you and your students to bits.

I work at a middle school but we all know that there is no age limit to a kid feeling so much hurt, animosity, disdain, or even just plain hate in their hearts to which they respond to it by causing harm for others. The issue of mass shootings is multifaceted. I don’t claim to know the answer to every problem in the world but I know that if a person is hungry, you feed him. If a person is thirsty, you give them water.

If students do not know how to properly channel their inadequacies, their misgivings, their emotional turmoil…the last thing you should do is make it easy for them to grab a gun.

As I close this, I received an email. It contained the following instructions which apply for the rest of the school year at my campus.

1) Beginning Wednesday, May 23rd, students are NOT allowed to bring backpacks to school.  Staff will be stationed at the front and back doors to take up any backpack that a student may bring.

2) Absolutely no classes are allowed to be outside for any reason. No courtyard lunches, no activity on the fields. All students must be contained within the school until further notice.

3) There will be wand searches. There will also be an increased police presence on campus until the end of the school year.

Do you know a child in public school? Do you have a wife or husband who works at a school? How much effective learning or teaching do you think is going on when these thoughts and rules are permeating your loved one’s thoughts as soon as they enter the school doors?

How about you? Are you a teacher? Do you fear for your kids’ lives when they are at school? How do you handle this real-life version of Hunger Games?

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