Guns terrify me! I have never been up close to one, and I don’t want to be. I remember listening to a police officer once present to a group of young children. They were very interested in his gun, and asked about firing it. He spoke about everything officers do to get criminals to surrender before firing. The intent is never to hurt. The intent is never to kill. And yet, we live in a world where there’s talk of arming teachers in schools in the States. While I really hope that what Doug Peterson implied in his recent blog post is true, and that this suggestion is ultimately what leads to more problem solving and conversations around school violence, the fact that we’re at a point that this option has to be discussed, is what might worry me the most.
I don’t live in The States, but I have friends and close family members that do. And if this kind of violence can happen in The States, can it also happen across the border? I think of the lock down drills that we practice at school. Just talking about these drills with Kindergarten students is a challenge. We don’t even say much. We don’t talk about guns and death. We look more at the fact that we practice fire drills to stay safe, and the same is true for lock down drills. But with a lock down drill, we don’t go outside: we hide quietly inside until the drill is over. We let children know that we’re there with them, and that they’re safe. There are always kids though that can’t sleep the night before a drill or start quietly crying when it happens. It breaks my heart!
I remember last year when my teaching partner, Paula, told our class about the lock down drill. She borrowed an example from a teacher friend of hers. The teacher used to teach in a country school. One day, they had a lock down drill because a bull got into the school and was running up and down the hallways. It wasn’t safe for them to leave their classrooms because of the bull. We thought that this real example would be less scary than a person with a gun … and I think it was, but it still scared them. What animals could enter our school? What if a lion did? A tiger? A bear? Pretty soon our attempt to alleviate concern led to the epic lock down drill discussion that had parents talking to us later about bulls running down the hallways. While we could both giggle about the “bull conundrum” later on, the lock down drill itself isn’t funny!
I used to wonder why we even had to practice the drill at our school. I teach at a lovely school in a beautiful area. It’s a K-6 school, with incredible parents and children. Nothing’s going to happen here. We’re safe. I still believe that this is true, but then I look at what happened in Florida. That school was also great one in a nice neighbourhood. Has violence become a new reality? Safe schools are a Board priority. A safe classroom is ours. And there’s nothing that we won’t do for our kids and their families … but I really hope that our job never includes even the thought of carrying a gun.
I wonder though: what is the solution here? How do we end this violence, without creating more violence? I don’t want this post to become a political one, or a comparison of Canada versus The States. It doesn’t matter. This post is not about increasing panic, or suggesting that we talk to our kids even more about school shootings. It is though about identifying a real problem, and questioning how we address it. For I don’t want any children, parents, educators, or administrators entering a school, scared to be there. How does anybody learn in that kind of environment?
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Aviva. It concerns me a great deal that often ideas from the US ends up in Canada. Canada, itself, has not been immune from violence – http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/deadly-shootings-schools-canada-1.3416685.
Of course, the biggest difference is the acceptance of guns within society. While Canada doesn’t outright ban firearms, you do see controls and limitations about how and when they are used. I hope that we never go beyond that.
Thanks Doug! I really hope that Canada continues to have these controls and limitations when it comes to firearms. Hopefully they will help limit the possibility of increased violence over here. As someone with loved ones over in the States though, these school shootings terrify me even more. I think of my nephew in the classroom. What does a lock down drill look like in his school? How are the teachers and students feeling? I hope there’s still a feeling of safety at school … and that there always will be!
Do you do weather related drills (flooding, tornado)?
Things happen so you practice responses
Some you go out side
Some you stay in the classroom
Some you go somewhere in the school
The students don’t need to know why just what to do.
Agreed Donald! And we have various types of lock down drills that we practice, some of which would address these weather concerns. We try not to tell them too much, but merely what to do. That said, many kids have older siblings, and they hear things from them or from others in the school. Some kids look for more information to feel better about the unknown, but for others, more information means more stress. I’m not sure there’s an easy answer. Thanks for weighing in here.
What IS the solution? Great question, Aviva, and I will try hard not to make US vs Canada comparisons or make it too political. Like you, I have family and friends south of the 49th parallel, and it’s been interesting to read the Twitter threads. I had never heard about “Alice Drills” before reading these threads – “Alice” is some sort of acronym for an Active Shooter drill, in which someone actually walks around with something that makes gun sounds and that students are trained to do things other than hide. This alarms me – can you imagine how this would be contrary to self-regulation? One of the most moving threads for me is the #ArmMeWith hashtag, where teachers ask to be “armed” with things like more books or support for students with mental illness. If that was the sort of arming “on the table”, then I’d be interested.
Thanks Diana! The Alice Drills terrify me too. Imagine how staff and students feel in this situation. It makes the possibility of gun violence, even more real. I wonder what kind of panic these also create in students and staff. That said, do the need for these drills also speak to what is the current reality? Scary!
I’ve seen a lot of the #ArmMeWith tweets lately, and I do wonder if a focus on mental health might make enough of a difference. I know that “arming me with knowledge” is about the only kind of “arms” I’d be willing to carry.
I’ll chime in. I would suggest that people read Pernille Ripp’s remarkable pieces in her blog about how it does feel to go to work scared. I also know that lockdown drills are worth doing, as terrifying as they are (for all of us). I have taught in schools where we needed to go into hold and secure because of an extremely agitated parent whose kids were being taken away from her. We went into that mode (which could extend beyond the school day) because we did not wish to shame the parent. I have also been in a situation, with a mentally altered stranger, which should have been a lockdown, but the protocols didn’t exist yet – all of us involved would be in much better emotional shape if they had.
I come to this whole discussion from a unique perspective as well, because, unlike Aviva, I am not terrified of guns. When I met my spouse, he still hunted with his dad each fall (he doesn’t anymore), and was an armed forces reservist. My children and I have all tried target shooting, under the supervision of a friend who is the most talented marksman I know, as well as being the most hyper-safe person I know around firearms. I have taught in rural communities where if a family didn’t hunt, they wouldn’t eat a lot of protein through the winter – it changed my point of view on firearms. That said, there is no reason whatsoever for anyone to own the kind of weapon that is being used in many mass shootings.
I cannot imagine what it would be like to teach in an environment where arming teachers was being discussed. That terrifies me.
Thanks for chiming in Lisa! I missed Pernille’s post, but am going to check it out now. I can’t imagine going to work scared like that.
Thanks for also sharing your thinking and experiences around guns. I always grew up with this fear of guns. When my mom was in university, her dad was getting rid of his guns. My mom’s older brother was bringing home his first grandchild to visit, and her dad didn’t want guns in the house with a baby coming. When he was loading up the guns, a bullet got engaged, and one of the guns accidentally went off, killing him instantly. My mom lost her dad on that day. I never got a chance to get to know my grandfather: an individual that sounds like an incredibly remarkable, caring, kind, and compassionate man. This is a story I’ve grown up with. And I think it’s the reason that guns are as scary as they are to me. Arming teachers is even more scary. I really hope that it never happens, but I also hope that the violence ends.