Today in San Bernardino, California an elementary school teacher was shot dead by her estranged husband who later killed himself. Even sadder, the murderer shot two of her students who happened to be standing by the teacher. One of the eight year olds later died from his injuries. Many people are asking how could this have happened. The answer is scary and I don’t think many people realize how teachers risk their lives every single day.
During my 17 years of teaching elementary school in the inner city, I have faced irate parents who have threatened me with bodily harm, been confronted by unstable staff members, been told to look for suspicious packages (bombs), walked students while pregnant with my first child to and fro during a school lockdown because of a nearby shooting, left work alone after dark through questionable surroundings, watched my students drop to the floor while gunshots rang out nearby, and watched unknown people stroll onto the campus with no school business. Schools are looked upon as safe zones because the the teachers and staff are determined to help students feel safe. Unfortunately, there is not enough training to prevent the unexpected from occurring.
With the Betsy DeVos poised to dismantle public schools, I reflect on how the public tend to disregard the hard job teachers are expected to perform in less than satisfactory conditions. Not all teachers are saints or inspirational in a Dead Poets Society way, but the majority of teachers are hard working, selfless individuals who find themselves charged to do the incredible in impossible circumstances. Miracles are expected with little to inadequate resources. Overcrowded classrooms of children who need their basic needs met before learning geometry are the norm in the inner cities. Clueless politicians, stressed administrators, and a shaming media pressure teachers to teach, nuture, and protect children with stellar results. Some teachers succeed and some fail. Some live to fight another day, and some never return home (Sandy Hook).