Considering the most recent school shooting and discussions about arming teachers with guns, I felt compelled to speak out. Guns are not the proper tools that teachers need to help end school shootings. I have been an educator for 30 years working with kids from preschool all the way through college graduate students and have two master's degrees in education. I have been a substitute teacher, taught science, health, physical education and college courses, coached numerous boys and girls sports teams as well as owned a preschool physical education program where I traveled around to childcare centers. I’ve taught in public schools and private schools and observed student teachers in urban inner city as well as rural schools. And, I’ve performed/educated thousands of more kids during school assemblies. Finally, I have taught hundreds of educators in professional development courses during the past 15 years. Given all those experiences, I have seen and been in hundreds of schools. In my humble opinion, giving teachers guns is not going to solve anything. This is a multi-faceted issue beyond gun control, beyond mental health, beyond political decisions. We need to give teachers respect and the tools they need to teach in a safe environment. So, what are the tools?
Tool #1 -Students We need your respect, not guns. Be grateful for what you have and how you can make this world a better place. School is a privilege in this country to teach you basic academic skills, prepare you for adulthood, teach you life lessons and help you grow as a young person. Respect the adults in your school because they are your elders and know more than you and have more life experience than you do. Be responsible to do your work, go to class, be respectful and kind to others. Connect with other people face to face and not just on your devices. Limit your exposure to violent video games, television and movies. If you partake in too much violence, you will get desensitized to it. If you are in trouble or see someone else in trouble or exhibiting violence, tell a responsible adult you trust until someone listens. Work hard and don’t expect everything to be handed to you. And, know that sometimes life is hard and not fair, but learn from those experiences to make your life and your world better. Volunteer your time! Go to a nursing home, read to a younger person, help out at church, in your community or sports team. Older students can make a huge difference in helping to mentor younger students and also help you grow and gain valuable experiences as you prepare for life.
Tool #2- Parents- We need your support and respect, not guns. Support and respect your school staff instead of criticizing them, especially in front of your children. If your child gets in trouble at school, don’t jump to conclusions too quickly until you listen to the adults. Most teachers and administrators are there to help your child and want them to succeed in life. Spend time with your children. Teach them life skills at home, get them involved with positive extra-curricular experiences, take them to church, eat meals as a family, listen to your kids and get off your devices, read to your kids and be a good role model. You are their first and most important teacher. They are watching you and learning from you. Work with your teachers and administrators to make school a positive experience. Volunteer for school activities and get to know your child’s teacher. Be kind and respectful to others.
Tool #3-Politicians- We need your support and respect, not guns. Listen to us, involve us in decisions that affect how we teach. Ask us to the table when you are making educational decisions that affect schools. How can you possibly know what is best for students when you have not walked in our shoes? We don’t need more standardized testing and curriculum standards, we need more time and funding to teach our content as well as life skills to our students. Standardized tests don’t tell the whole story, only a small piece of what is going well or poorly at a school. We are not a business that performs based on data and numbers. We are working with human beings that may come from messed up homes. Some of our students come to us hungry, dirty, tired, abused or lacking basic life skills. We must step in and meet those basic needs before we can worry about teaching our students to read or do math. We don’t need a bonus to carry a gun at school, we need a bonus because we are doing our jobs well. More guns at schools will only cause more problems. The problems in American schools are complicated and arming teachers with guns will not fix any of the underlying issues. We need less testing and more time to help students with basic life and character building skills because many are not getting these skills taught to them at home. Visit our schools! Ask us questions and support what we are doing. Reform mental health and social services. You have cut funding year after year to these agencies. There are too many loop holes in our mental health system and not enough insurance companies that fund long-term treatment and counseling. Support non-profits and state agencies that have successful programs helping others with mental and emotional health.
Tool #4-Community-We need your respect ,not guns! Support your local schools with more than just your property taxes! Respect your school personnel. Teaching is one of highest stress jobs in our society right up there with nurses and doctors. Schools have vastly changed since you were in school. When was the last time you observed a Kindergarten class?? Sure, there may be bad teachers or administrators, but the vast majority of staff in the schools are there because they want to make a positive impact on young people. They do not go into education for the paycheck. Volunteer your time to make a positive impact on a young person’s life by being a mentor or volunteering in the classroom or with an extra-curricular activity. Our children need positive adult role models who can demonstrate what responsible adults should be doing. Take an interest in kids and show them what kindness and compassion looks like. Children are watching adults and many grown-ups are exhibiting far worse behavior than the kids. Be a grown-up and show up for the kids in your community. This is a team effort and we all need to step up and take steps to make our world a better place. Stop being self-centered and instead look for what you can do for others in a healthy way.
There will always be evil in this world, but you can counter evil with acts of kindness, compassion and connecting positively with the next generation We all can make a huge difference each and every day! How will you step up and help to change this world one person at a time? Get your tool belt filled with these tools to make each and every school safer and most importantly a change agent for the future!