Saturday, February 24, 2018

Teaching is Hard Enough Without the Threat of Imminent Death by Steven Singer

I am so sick of coming to school and having an impromptu meeting to discuss why my students and I might die today.


Every time there’s a major school shooting somewhere in the nation it seems a copycat makes a threat in my own backyard, and we react.

The police tell us it’s not a credible threat so school stays open.

However, be vigilant.

Be aware that our students know about the threat and will be talking about it.

We’ll bring in bomb-sniffing dogs…

But try to maintain calm and order.

There will be a lock down drill in a few days…

But try to make the kids feel safe and secure.

An older student violently attacked a classmate last week after threatening to go on a spree…

But attempt to establish an atmosphere conducive to learning.

To which, I say: are you freaking kidding me?

I know Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.


There are certain basic necessities anyone must have in order to become a fully actualized person.

After physiological necessities like food and water, safety is absolutely fundamental.

Without it, you can’t get people to focus much on anything else.

You can’t get children to pay attention to nouns and verbs, for instance, if they’re afraid they’re going to be shot and killed.

You can’t get them to care about writing a complete sentence, if they feel like they may have to duck and cover at any moment.

You can’t get them to bother with abstract reading comprehension if they’re afraid of imminent death!

Oh, and by the way, I’m not exactly at my best either!

Well, Yippee Ki Yay! I’m a teacher! Pew! Pew!

My 7th grade students are literally frightened that going to school on any given day may lead to the end of their lives.

Every couple of weeks on the news it’s another school shooting and another body count, while lawmakers do nothing to ensure it won’t happen again tomorrow.

Every few days, it’s a rumor about this or that troubled kid we all know snapping and throwing a gun in his backpack. Or it’s an anonymous threat scrawled on a wall or a social media page.

Today it was teaching classes where half the kids were missing because their parents held them out of school afraid a vague rumor of imminent violence was true.

And as I tried to assure those who did show up that everything was okay, law enforcement checked the lockers with K-9 police dogs looking for weapons or drugs.

What the heck are we coming to?

I work in a police state and my students are being asked to learn in a penitentiary.

And the principals should get guns.

And the parents should get guns.

And the guns should get little tinier guns to protect themselves from even more guns!

This is madness.

We’re begging for a political solution but our political system is a shambles. Nothing puts that in starker contrast than the gun debate.

The overwhelming majority of Americans want sensible gun laws – an assault weapons ban, closing the gun show loophole, mental health screenings, etc.

If we lived in an authentic Democratic Republic, we’d have them. But we don’t, because we live in a plutocracy.

It’s like Tony the Tiger suggesting the only cure for obesity is to eat more Frosted Flakes! They’re Ggggrrrreeeaaaattt!

A teacher’s job is hard enough without society crumbling all around us.

But that doesn’t mean the children aren’t learning.

They’re watching the world burn with wide eyes. They’re taking in every flame, every bullet hole, every cowardly senator, representative and chief executive.

They’re watching and taking names.

At the end of the year, policymakers will wag their fingers at the nation’s teachers about failing standardized test scores.

They’ll bemoan sinking academic standards, powerful labor unions and a lack of moral fiber as the cause of a generation of children who lost out on an education while cowering under bulletproof backpacks.

But this generation refuses to be lost.

Despite everything, they’ve left a trail of breadcrumbs back to sanity.

They are emotionally damaged by a country that no longer functions, but they know the truth.

They know who’s responsible. And they know what to do about it.

When they reject our society, we’ll know why.

Because the next generation will be nothing like us.

And on a day like today, that’s the most hopeful thought I can offer.

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