Arming the schools, one more thought


Sometimes my class likes to put on a play.  Its creative, its messy and its almost always a lot of fun.  We write the script, we make the costumes, we create the sets.

At least once during each production, a student asks if he or she can use a sword, or a gun or a big stick for some reason.  The actor is always very earnest, and always has a great reason to explain why that weapon would make the play so much better.  “I’m playing the King!  It would be so funny if I chased the thief around with my sword!”

No, I always explain patiently. We don’t bring any kind of weapon into school; school is a place that has to feel safe for everyone.

“We can use a plastic sword!”   No, I’m sorry, honey. No weapons, even pretend.

And every Halloween, as we get ready for our little classroom party, we talk about what kind of costumes are going to be allowed. Kids are told that they can wear funny clothes, they can dress up in capes or wigs or even scary style clothes.

But I always go on to talk about the little five and six year old students who share our hallway and our playground.  I remind them that Halloween can be scary to such young children. I ask them to think back to how Trick or Treat used to feel to them at that age. We share stories of times when the whole thing was just too overwhelming and scary for them.

And they get it.

I help them to come to the conclusion that when they arrive at school on Halloween, they can wear cool outfits, but they can’t wear masks (not safe for them to walk around; scary for little kids). They can’t look bloody or injured, and they absolutely can’t bring any kind of weapon. Not a gun, not a sword, not a light saber, not a cudgel.

“This is school.”, my colleagues and I tell our students. “School has to be safe for everyone.”

And every teacher knows that little boys like to form their fingers into pretend guns and aim them at imaginary foes.  In our district, we ask them to stop when we see them take aim with their pudgy little fingers.  We know that they are only pretending, but we remind them, once again, that “School has to be safe for everyone.”

We are supposed to be teaching children to solve problems without conflict. We are supposed to prevent and end bullying.  We have been mandated by law to “teach peace”.   And we try.  Every single day, we try.

How are we supposed to do that if we are carrying guns ourselves?

How are we supposed to do that if every time we walk the kids to the music room we have to pass the armed guard in the doorway?

Bringing loaded guns into schools is just such a supremely stupid idea.  Even a ten year old can see that.

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6 responses to this post.

  1. I ran across this and immediately thought of you:

    Reply

  2. I don’t really see the connection between “personal freedom” and carrying an assault weapon. I just don’t. To me, “personal freedom” means having the right to go to the mall, or the movies, or the classroom without fearing that someone will have had a psychotic break and grabbed an arsenal of “legal” guns that are designed to murder me.
    We don’t have the “freedom” to do whatever we want to do in this life: I don’t have the right to toss grenades around my neighborhood; I don’t have the right to yell “Fire” in a crowded theater, or to shoot off firecrackers in the middle of the night, or to dance naked in a restaurant, just because I want to.
    I can’t begin to express how enraged I am by the claim that taking away military style weapons somehow takes away personal freedoms.

    Reply

  3. I think that it is really amazing that you can put what you are feeling into words, and that you’re brave enough to share it with the world. I’ll admit, when I first heard of Sandy Hook, I was the first one to say, “Arm the teachers!” And as soon as those words flew out of my mouth, I realized that it was stupid. We have to think, we have to be role models. We can’t keep the kids safe if we are armed ourselves. Change needs to happen, whether we have men and women from the military stand in our schools, or have some sort of classroom dog for protection, something different needs to happen. I am so glad that you are very strong in your beliefs, we need more teachers out there like you.

    Reply

    • Thank you for your thoughtful words. I agree with you so much, “we have to do something different”! I have had fantasies of big strong men with weapons standing in the doorway to my classroom, and then I think, “Is this really what we want for our children?”
      I can’t get past the obvious thought that if the military weapons weren’t in the hands of the public, we wouldn’t need to think about bringing the army into the fifth grade.

      Reply

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