On Valentines day afternoon, one of my friends forwarded the news article to me and said “as a teacher, you can stop this. And change the world.” You know what article.
Oofda. Talk about a tall order. And I have enough faith in myself to know that I am constantly infusing my classroom with positivity and light, which hopefully DOES change the world…
But I only encounter under 200 lives a day. That’s my sphere of influence right now.
Dear Congress, you impact the NATION. Your laws or lack thereof send a ripple effect that can rip the shroud off the window and shed rays of light through our homes or tack it harder in place, hiding the glorious views of what could be.
Dear Congress, I’m going to be honest with you. I’m starting to get scared. I’ve heard of shootings all of the country, but it was always ‘somewhere else.’ That can give one a lot of false comfort. But those places ‘somewhere else’ are buildings just like mine…classrooms where kids work and learn and goof off and make friendships and learn about heartbreak and experience their first taste of semi-independent life. Hallways where thousands of feet walk, run, and dance. Quads where laughter, tears, and music can be heard. Familiar, safe places….until they are not.
Dear Congress, I know your job is tough. I know there are things going on behind the scenes that are deemed too classified or too rough for the public to consume. I know it sucks to be the bad guy. I too have felt the the burning eyes ignited by unpopular decisions—taking away phones so kids can learn is never welcomed, nor is giving a failing grade ever considered ‘earned’ by the failing party.
But guess what, dear Congress. That’s my job. That’s why I signed up for. My job is to teach, to love, to guide, and to influence. How would our next generation turn out if I took all this power and responsibility I was given and simply…didn’t use it? I have been offered countless amounts of money by students to raise grades, ‘forget’ about assignments, and/or let the class simply run amuck.
Is that what I should start doing, Congress? My paycheck isn’t very big compared to yours, and an extra couple bucks here or there would buy me a couple round of beers on a Friday afternoon. No harm, no foul, right?
But yet, dear Congress, something keeps stopping me. Integrity. Such a small word, only four syllables, yet the lack of it can cause complete and utter chaos.
If I haven’t yet convinced you, dear Congress, lets move our lens to a different sphere. Responsible, caring, gun-owning parents teach their children about a gun’s proper use and keep them locked away when they are not needed. You are the parents of the United States family. You have required us to learn about cars before we can drive them. You have enforced certifications before operating certain potentially deadly equipment. You have even created a compulsory education system so that our nation as a whole is composed of semi-functional human beings.
And yet, here we stand, with at least seven (or more, depending on your definition) school shootings before the end of the second month in 2018.
Unfortunately, dear Congress, I can only only write down on paper cold numbers and facts and hope that you take notice. I cannot present to you the warm blood that spilled from each victim’s bullet wounds. I cannot ply you with the last few heartbeats of someone’s child, someone’s partner, someone’s father as they lay dying in the hallways that, once familiar and comforting, seemed alien and harsh as their spirits left their bodies. I cannot display for you the constant sobs of a mother whose son was ripped away from her with simple tap of the trigger.
There are some things that you can’t quantify. But those are the things that should matter the most.
Dear Congress, I pray that you never have to lose a loved one to violence that someone else could have possibly prevented. I pray that you never have to cower behind your (much more expensive) desks and send frantic goodbye texts to your loved ones. I pray that you never have to look over and see your secretary or intern or fellow public servant staring at you with unseeing eyes as carpet beneath them becomes warm and sticky and red.
Dear Congress, I hope to God that I never have to experience this for myself. But way too many of my colleagues around the nation already have. I have gone over and over in my head the best way to barricade my classroom, where I should have my students’ huddle, and how I hope to God I’d be brave enough to take the shooter down if I had the opportunity. I would bet my paycheck that every single teacher in America has strategized these things as well.
We have 1.4 million self-selected citizens in the military, where they are trained how to react to situations like this. Yet we have over 3 million teachers who are attempting to plan the same thing, with no training and no choice.
Dear Congress, there is a reason I chose to become a teacher and not a member of the Army or Navy or Air Force. I’m sure there is a reason you decided to run for office too. I hope to God that those reasons are still on the forefront of your mind today, and that they are right and pure and strong.
Dear Congress, America needs you. America needs you to stand up and keep us safe. Not all heroes wear capes, but the heroes that have sprang up to help out at each terrible shooting are not bulletproof.
Dear Congress….this is your moment. Seize it. Please.
Love, a teacher.