The morning after the Uvalde shooting, I was driving into school wondering which parts of the evacuation plan to remind students of. Should I let them know the best hiding spots, in case a student planning to act out their own violence is in the room? How intense should I be? Should I worry about scaring them, or should I assume they’re already just as scared as I am?
At home, later that night, I received an email from a mom of a student in my class. She told me that by acknowledging the shooting in my classroom and assuring them we had safety procedures in place, the student felt much safer at school. The student, who was twelve at the time, also told their mom that the knowledge that it would be me placing my life on the line for them made her sad, because I was only, like, twenty-three.
Now, at twenty-four, I still wonder what parents must think every time they send their kid to school, knowing I am the one considered to be the barrier between them and potential death. Parents in America must reckon with the idea that every time they place their child on a school bus or drop them off at carpool, that their child may not return home that afternoon. Teachers in America must reckon every morning with the idea that their bachelor’s degree has qualified them to be a human shield while trying to teach kids parts of speech.
The selfishness settles in every time a school shooting crosses the news. It’s hard not to feel guilty to be the one to instantly consider ‘what if that was me?’ when a new school’s name comes across my radar for the first time. But in this culture of when and not if, each act of violence feels a little more personal. Even when applying to jobs at the end of my teacher prep experience, I wondered if I would be safer at a middle school, where students may be too young to consider killing their peers and teachers. But when considering the hundreds of school shootings that happen each year, it appears as if no child is too young to be spared, and the adults who love them are no exception either.
There’s no wondering why teachers are expected to be the ones to stand between an active shooter and a student. When I look at my students, I understand that I am double their age. I have lived twice as much life, it’s only fair to allow them to do the same. And when I consider the kids I see every day, the ones I spend eight hours a day, five days a week with, I know that I would put myself in front of…