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Tuesday October 17th 2017

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I Told My Students Last Week There Would Be a Mass Shooting This Week–And I Was Right Because-Of Course

School Shooter

One thing you might not know about teachers is that deep down, we fear for our lives.

I know teachers across my state keep their classroom locked for no other reason than someone with an assault rifle could come through the door at any moment. They honestly don’t do it but for that: Not gangs, or the threat of a principal walking in unannounced. They do it just to be safe. It’s like wearing a seatbelt. When I put it like that it sounds alarmist, and I don’t mean to cause a panic, but when we talk about the dearth of gun laws in this country, some alarum might be in order.

Last week I was talking to my students about what is going on in the world. We talked about Kim Davis, the pope, Donald Trump, and Planned Parenthood. They wrote an essay of their own choosing directly related to those issues. In our writing and discussion, the topic of the NRA was mentioned and almost none of my students knew what an NRA was. We started talking about gun laws. And I told them very matter-of-factly that it had been a couple of weeks since there had been a mass shooting, and that next week there would be one. That’s how I said it: “Next week there will be a mass shooting at a school, because…well, that’s just how it is now.”

To tell you the truth, I wanted to be caught lying to my students. I wanted them this week to say, “You see Mr. Amaral, you exaggerated.” But in this country, of course I was right. How could I not be?

According to the Washington Post, the United States hasn’t gone more than 8 days without a mass shooting this year. In 274 days we’ve had 294 mass shootings. That’s just this year, since Newtown the amount of gun deaths are astounding at 84,000. I wrote about Newtown here on this blog, and as those elementary kids lay dead, I said that our government would do absolutely nothing about guns. I said that Republicans and Democrats alike are so deep in the pockets of special interests and their own interests in being re-elected that even the horror of that tragedy was not enough to change a single policy in congress.

And I was right then too.

Nothing has changed. Not a single policy. No universal background checks. No end to gun shows. But what hasn’t ended is the string of mass murders mere days apart that, as I so concretely showed my students, will only continue in perpetuation.

Unfortunately for teachers and students, a great many of these shootings take place in classrooms. They also take place in churches and movie theaters, but I can’t think of another job (aside from the military and police of course)where you actually consider the fact that an armed gunman might show up to your place of work more than when working on a school campus. The cowards who commit these crimes seem to target the most innocent and vulnerable. I have no tolerance or forgiveness for these men, and I cannot think of anything worse than hurting children. It is despicable.

At least our President has the balls to call those people out who refuse to acknowledge this is even remotely a problem. His speech yesterday was so spot-on I advise you to watch it in its entirety. He somberly said, “Somehow this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine, the conversation in the aftermath of it…We have become numb to this.” He is right. The low point for me was when he reminded us that the only law our congress will pass is one that prohibits the government from keeping track of the data having to do with these shootings. Talk about some sort of backward vortex of asininity. But give President Obama some credit, with the most worthless congress in our country’s history, he keeps reminding us that “We are the only advanced country on earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months.”

It’s like we are blind to the barrel pressed directly against the tip of our nose. So let me make it a little more real. If teachers lock their doors and live in fear, how do you think the students, your children, feel? Do you think our kids feel great when their teacher can predict a MASS SHOOTING with 100% accuracy? I wonder what it must feel like to grow up in a world where you know for a fact there will be a mass murder every eight days. If you too want to know, ask a kid, any kid, because they are living it. If we can’t make change for our actual children, then change isn’t happening, is it?

The most unfortunate part of this most recent tragedy is that once again NOTHING will happen. There will not be a single law passed. Congress will not take up a single bill or have a single debate. This is just another day for us, and there is no reason to think that tomorrow won’t be more of the same. We live in a Groundhog Day of death, and even Bill Murray can’t make this joke funny.

So in a week, the teachers in this country will start locking their doors again, and the students will look up in alarm every time someone knocks a little too loudly at the door. In a week I will remind my students that there will be another mass shooting very soon. And like always, I will be right. In this country, I always am.

 

Reader Feedback

8 Responses to “I Told My Students Last Week There Would Be a Mass Shooting This Week–And I Was Right Because-Of Course”

  1. Holly says:

    I teach junior high in a really bad neighborhood. I keep my door locked. Just this week some kid ran by and banged on my door one of my kids had a panic attack the rest went to get down on the floor. This is their life not only because of school but because of where they live. Why will no one do something to stop this?

    • Holly, yeah, I keep my door locked for a variety of reasons too. Really, if you prescribe to the notion of shut your door and teach, then you probably want to lock it anyway. Thanks for the comment, and keep up the good work, we need you.

  2. Karen Conner says:

    Thank you, Matt. As always, your candor is so refreshing. I will share this blog, and it will piss some people off. But, I don’t care. This week’s shooting happened a year and one day after my school had a shooting. Yes, I keep my door locked at all times. Yes, it is so that no one can enter who can harm us- at least not immediately. I am too darn close to an entrance and too realistic to not realize that at some time a school will be the first to have 2 shootings. I do not know what it will take to start some action.

    • Karen, I didn’t actually realize how many people lock their doors until people have been reaching out to me after this blog post. It really is quite sad that this is the state of affairs. It is one of those things you can chalk up to being unbelievable. It is like we have already reached a worst case, post-apocalyptic scenario, it just doesn’t feel that way because we live it every day. Things shouldn’t be like this.

  3. Sue says:

    Holly:
    YOU can do something about it… Start voting for politicians who will ban guns.

  4. Kasandra says:

    I’m sad that you are right. Life is so much more scary now than it was in the 1980s when I was a teen. I teach in a rural school district…about 1200 students K-12. We have been instructed by administration to lock our classroom doors and have since maybe about 7 or so years ago…for safety purposes. I have taught here for 22 years, and I don’t think I’ve been really scared while at work. I would probably shut my door anyway to keep my freshmen from being interested in the hall goings on. I think you are correct….the media “talks up” school shootings so much that it seems to invite someone else to do the same later on, sadly. Living in Oklahoma, I think nearly all our camouflage wearing high school students know what the NRA is. What age group did you assign the essay? I wonder if my freshmen would have to complete some research online, etc. before attacking something like that. I figure yes.

  5. Lisa says:

    I teach in an urban high school, and I also keep my door locked at all times. Students never complain about having to get up and answer the door repeatedly. We’ve also installed blinds on all of our classroom windows facing the hallways. You’re right, this is normal. If you ask the students why we lock the doors, they all say why without hesitation and with the casualness of someone who says they are going to the store to buy a loaf of bread.

    Let’s also think about the number of times guns are found in schools, the times where it could have been something worse. If we add in those statistics, I think it would paint an even bleaker image.

  6. Effat Id-Deen says:

    I appreciate the authenticity in which you tackle such dismal issues in the world, not just from an educator’s perspective but as a citizen as well. You creatively intertwine ideologies, politics, teaching experiences, philosophies of education and life lessons into a “real, needs to be said” blog.

    As a former student whose K-12 education was in an urban school, as a teacher and social worker who served urban communities for 10+ years, and now as a PhD student and Teacher Educator who works in urban school settings, safety and fear in schools seems to have dramatically increased more so for teachers than students. When reading your entries, I often think about my middle school students who perceive gun violence as normal. Some of my former students have grown immune and numb to violence. It’s become a part of their daily lives, their culture, their thinking.

    But like you, I too take the approach of reflection, discussion and action. If we don’t talk about these issues or push for change, this problem and other problems that plague our schools and societies will continue to persist.

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