Recently, we had a family dinner in our house. It was right after the horrible events of Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children and two of their teachers were murdered.
Ours is a teacher-heavy family and that night, five of us teachers sat around the table. Four of us are (or have been) elementary school educators.
After dinner, three teachers — my daughter, her mom and my son’s partner, two of whom still teach in SFUSD (one recently retired, but she occasionally works as a substitute teacher) — exchanged the following thoughts.
As the conversation unfolded I sat there, dumbfounded…but I took mental notes. Here they are:
One: Have you practiced safety drills with your classes?
Two: Of course we do! But… It pisses me off SO much! It makes me mad … and sad.
Three: I’ve had some students who actually peed on themselves … as they crouched under their desks!
One: Aw! That also happened in my class! Poor little ones!
Two: My classroom is the first one you encounter, as you enter from outside! I think about that … a lot. Right off the street!
Three: And what would you all do if it happens? If a shooter breaks into your school!
A long pause ensued. Heads shook from side to side as if saying “Perish the thought.”
Two: (After a deep sigh) I am not really sure … but this much I know: I will defend my children … I mean, my students. I will not hesitate.
The other two agreed. Another pause, before one of them spoke.
Three: Would you get a gun and keep it in your classroom?
One: No way! Too dangerous. I hate guns.
Three: I never used a gun … but … maybe I should consider learning how to shoot.
Two: Of course … if you get a gun … you’d have to be very careful and keep it locked … away from the kids… Heck, away from everybody!
One: Sure! So safely put away that, by the time you actually unlock the gun from its safe place … the shooter is already there!
Three: … or I’ll be so nervous, that I will start shooting crazily and miss!
Two: … or hit someone we don’t mean to hit!
Three: True. Just look at what happened about a week ago, when those two homeless men were killed by the cops! They were fighting each other … The police were supposed to make sure that nobody got hurt…and they shot both of them!
One: “To protect and to serve” Ha!
Two: Like those Uvalde cops did!
Three: A bad joke!
One: My momma used to say that “Weapons are loaded by the Devil.”
Two: …with the help of the NRA and the Gun Lobby!
Three: (Shaking her head vehemently) It’s not so much them: it’s the Constitution!
Two: Yes! That Second Amendment crap. Oof. Untouchable.
One: Like the Bible!
Three: They might as well have free copies of the Second Amendment next to the Bible in all Motels in this country!
They all laughed. Not a happy laugh. Another long pause.
One: Next semester, I’m planning on teaching my students to jump out of the windows onto the outside lawn. It’s not too big a jump.
Three: Maybe a carpenter can help you build a plank … or a slide … that you can swing out the window … like those things that airplanes have to slide out in case of an emergency.
Two: Let’s change the subject. This whole thing kind of depresses me.
I agree with my dear fellow teachers. It is a depressing subject. It does not make me happy to write about it.
Nevertheless, it refuses to leave my mind and I am pretty sure that I am not the only one who is burdened by the current atrocities. Writing about it helps me (and I hope it helps you, the reader) to digest this very loaded subject.
Some thoughts come to mind, repeatedly:
Why is it that teachers are expected to be responsible for a situation that — clearly — many irresponsible and careless people have created?
Teachers, supposedly, are beloved, necessary, even essential members of our society.
If that is the case, why are they not supported accordingly?
In Uvalde, for example, its cowardly police force receives over 40 percent of that city’s budget.
School teachers, not just in Uvalde, but all over this nation — San Francisco included — are treated as some kind of glorified babysitters, but are not paid like some babysitters are paid.
Why are teachers expected to add to their duties that of being first responders, to learn how to shoot guns, to lay their lives on the line for their students when they cannot even afford to live comfortably? Especially in the San Francisco Bay Area, perhaps the most ridiculously expensive place in the world.
And, just to follow up on another issue brought up in the conversation that those dear members of my family of teachers had, why is the Constitution considered so sacrosanct?
In other countries (like Chile, right now) the people are heavily and democratically engaged in creating a new constitution. Because even sacrosanct documents many times do not age well.