(Image from The Huffington Post)
I was once a pretty decent shot (practiced as a kid in Russia), but I have a hard time writing on a whiteboard in a straight line. You’d think that after six full years of teaching college as an English instructor, I’d learn. Nope. I called students by the wrong name on a couple of occasions, lost track of time during some lectures and got upset when someone plagiarized.
Yes, I felt offended when a lacrosse-playing freshman in my Composition class turned in an expository essay about “bitches and hoes.” It was also a little bit alarming when a withdrawn teenager in my remedial English class at a San Francisco community college wrote, “Die, bitch” on the cover of his notebook, then turned it in. In fact, I was scared to walk back to my car that night and feared for the safety of other students. My thinking was irrational and unclear.
Or how about that kid at a city art school class, an amalgam of characters from The Matrix and The Crow? He had long black hair and wore a black trench coat, which fluttered behind him when he stomped into the room. He’d often get up, walk to the trash can and spit into it loudly, then get back to his seat. He glared and never spoke – not even when called to the chalkboard. A soft-spoken lady from the administration came in to observe once at my request, but there was nothing she could do, she said. Other than a few failing grades, his record was clean. So if I were tasked with being “the good guy with a gun,” when would I draw the weapon? When he concealed his hands in his pockets while sizing the students up? Or when he wrote “They all died because I killed them,” on the chalkboard, as an example of a dependent clause in a sentence? Or would these be false alarms? Oops, sorry, Neo. I guess you were just reaching for chalk.
Maybe a gun would have helped with that one international student back in New Jersey, who followed me into the empty teacher’s lounge and tried to force a massage as I made photocopies. I pried him off because he didn’t understand the word “no.” If I had a gun, would I sort of politely mention it, or dangle that pistol cracker in the air to assert myself – or use it, if I felt really afraid? Or maybe he was just playing around, you know, boys being boys and all?
When I hear our President and others urging arming teachers in the wake of the Parkland high school shooting, I’m concerned this would create more casualties and chaos.
There is so much room for error in judgment and escalation when dealing with a weapon in a professional and inherently emotional environment. There’s also a risk of carelessness, like that elementary school teacher in Utah who discharged her gun into her leg on accident while peeing. More guns would cause more violence and not necessarily deter the tragedies like Parkland. In fact, there was an armed security officer on campus at the time of the shooting. He didn’t do much.
The armed teacher solution is also problematic because of inherent biases, lack of adequate training (think the self-styled vigilante George Zimmerman) and racial prejudice.
Efforts would be better spent on improving classroom resources and teachers’ salaries and amping up mental health support services on campus and beyond. Oh, and politicians without the NRA money.