They trust me.


I was teaching my class about parts of speech.  We were looking at some of the wonderful books by Roald Dahl, and laughing about how cleverly he could depict his villains. He made them so richly detailed and wonderfully horrible that we felt as if we could hear their voices “like thunder”.  We could see their “massive thighs” and “bull necks”.  The kids were sharing favorite descriptions of witches, giants and cruel adults, showing each other passages from the books they had just completed.

My cell phone buzzed in my pocket, but I ignored it as I focused my energy on the shining faces before me.

After a few minutes, the children settled in to do some writing of their own, so I took a minute to read my text.  “Another school shooting. Check the news.”  I scanned the classroom, where the only sound was pen on paper and the crinkle of snack bags as the kids worked to create their own villain descriptions.

I sat at my desk, and clicked to CNN on-line.  The horror of the day unfolded before me.  And I was swept with grief, and flooded with rage, and shaking with fear, all in the span of a few racing heartbeats.

Again?  This has happened to us again?! I fought back my emotions, swallowed past the ache in my throat, and lifted my gaze to my students. One little boy caught my eye and grinned, then returned to his task. A little girl laughed, smoothing her shining red-gold hair behind her ear.

The kids went off to lunch, and to recess, laughing and eating and playing together in the sunshine.  I stood at the window of my classroom and watched.

You see, it is my job to take care of those children.  To nurture them and teach them and to keep them safe while they are in my care.

But I can’t!  Dammit.   I can’t keep them safe.

And I know it.

I know that any day of the week, any hour of the day, some angry, bitter, twisted person can walk right in the door and raise a gun and simply blow us all away. There will be nothing I can do.

And that breaks my heart, and makes me so enraged that I don’t know what to do.

Someone out there, someone who has stumbled on this blog, maybe someone who believes in so called  “gun rights”, please explain to me how you can still think it is reasonable for people to walk around carrying assault weapons?

Don’t tell me about the Second Amendment. Just don’t.  If you speak English at all, you know that the words of that clause don’t say a thing about the right of one individual to own a gun.  “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”   You want to join a well regulated militia? Fine.  Just get the semi-automatic weapons out of your closet.

And don’t you dare to tell me that if only more people were armed, these things wouldn’t happen. You can’t possibly believe that putting guns into the hands of kindergarten teachers is really going to keep children safe.  You are not going to tell me that now I need to carry an armed weapon in my pocket while I teach kids how to do long division.

I don’t want to hear about individual rights, or freedom, or personal liberty, either.  The rights of adults who want to feel macho in the face of a scary world do not trump the rights of my students to learn and grow without fearing for their lives.

If we don’t stand up right now, and force this so called government of ours to outlaw and confiscate all those assault weapons, then we will all have ourselves to blame when the next inevitable mass murder happens at the movies, or the mall.

Or in my classroom.

23 thoughts on “They trust me.

  1. I agree. And even though I fear people will defend their positions because, from what I just read, the guns belonged to the shooter’s mother, who was also a victim, I also sense that, because such young children were the victims, some are changing their tune.. a bit…

    Unfortunately, it’s way, way, way too late for the victims.

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    • Trina, I hope that you are right, and that we are at least getting ready to discuss the idea of banning these terrible killing machines.
      I just feel so enraged, and so powerless. I want to find a way to do something. I refuse to just cry and pray.

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    • Please write to your congressmen and the White House and beg them to finally, finally reinstate the assault weapons ban, and finally give it some teeth. Then maybe next time it won’t happen.

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      • So can I ask you this? In Canada, are assault weapons legal? I know that many Canadians own guns, but my impression has been that they are not as lethal as ours. Am I wrong?
        If there is such easy access to guns up there, I just can’t account for the incredible violence down here. Perhaps it is due in part to our very poor mental health system, but I don’t know.

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      • To be honest, I don’t know. I *believe* however, that owning guns privately up here is restricted to handguns and shotguns/hunting guns. I know my dad had to register his shotguns when I was a kid, but they were kept in a safe and his ammunition was kept in a separate safe. I think I saw them all of twice.

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      • Can I ask whether you think there are different cultural attitudes to guns in Canada e.g. that they are more likely to be kept for hunting (which I think is the case in Germany, which has high levels of gun ownership) and also whether people are legally required to store guns and ammunition securely, as your dad did (which would be the case in the UK).

        I just wonder whether part of the problem in the US is that the Second Amendment is specifically about guns as a weapon to be used against people and that this contributes to a cultural mindset.

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      • Well, the mindset that I was given being raised in Canada is that guns are dangerous. That most people will own guns if they are hunters or collectors, and that storing ammunition separately is safest. I don’t know if it was/is law to store guns and ammunition separately, that may have been a decision my dad made on his own – having children who lived in the house.

        I heard a lot of stories as a child about the dangers of playing with guns, so it never even occurred to me to try. We were also never taught that we were ‘allowed’ to shoot someone who was on our property or endangering us, which I have been led to believe is something that is taught in the United States. Forgive me if this perception is wrong.
        I do, personally, think that there are vast cultural differences between Canada and the United States in regards to gun control and use. I don’t have any proof, and I may be wrong, but that is the general impression that I get.

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      • Thank you. I think that you are spot on with the crazy American attitude about “holding your ground” and “defending the homestead.” People honestly buy and practice using guns around here so that they can feel safer: It is insane.

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      • Helen, what great questions!
        I personally think that the second amendment was specifically about the federal government not being allowed to prevent state militias. It was written just after we had gone through a revolution in part because the federal government of the day (the King) refused to allow local militias to exist. I don’t think for one moment that the founders were thinking about individual gun rights at a time when the weapons were muskets and fowling pieces, and where literally everyone depended on them for food.
        I think that Americans have let ourselves be duped into equating “freedom” with “I can do whatever I want, whenever I want to do it.” I don’t know how we have let it get this far out of hand.

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  2. A completely overwhelming event. And you summed it up brilliantly. You can’t protect them.

    There are things that are beyond our control, in real life. Earthquakes, hurricanes, natural disasters. But gun control? Yeah, we can CONTROL that.

    God damn the NRA.

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    • I have been fighting all day with relatives and friends who are gun owners and for once I don’t care. I have the rage of what happened to power me.
      I honestly and truly believe that anyone who has fought against gun control and any politician who has blocked it, shares a big part of the responsibility for yesterday. And I just wrote letters to Obama, John Kerry and Scott Brown to say just that.

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  3. The sadness that has engulfed me today has left me with only infinite compassion for the children, parents, siblings, families, and communities affected by this single act of [I still can’t think of the word]—I hope for humanity, despite humans. Yes, none of us are safe in this sometimes senseless and often random existence. I cannot fathom the heartache, heartbreak—to think that families send their little loves off to us every day, trusting, believing that they are kept in the next best/safest place in the world. It breaks my heart to know that we can do so much to keep them physically, emotionally, and intellectually safe, secure, but we cannot know of or protect them from all that is tragically inhuman. Be well, my fellow teacher.

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    • Thank you, and you, too. I tossed and turned all night, as I’m sure so many of us did, trying to imagine how everyone will feel on Monday. How many children will be afraid to be in my classroom? What do I say to them, knowing that the truth is, I can’t keep them safe?

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      • We can only simply be honest with them—sadly, they understand horror, and its aftermath, the grief. We all do our best. If only their caped heroes and heroines, and magical characters could come to life sometimes.

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  4. it was mind-numbing to hear that this had happened AGAIN – and to such young children. This is a tragedy that is almost beyond words. Surely the time has come for ordinary decent Americans to speak out and for political leaders to exercise some real leadership instead of kow towing to their financial backers. The (to non-Americans) incomprehensible “right” to bear arms cannot continue to outweigh the right of a single child to go to school not to be murdered.

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    • You are so right!
      I think that part of my reaction has been such pure rage because I voted for Barack Obama in 2008 in part because he promised to work for a ban on assault weapons, and he never did a thing. Perhaps some of his tears were based in guilt.

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  5. Well said. At midnight on Dec. 14, my state’s lame duck legislation passed a last minute bill allowing people with concealed weapons permits to carry guns into schools.

    Schools.

    They aren’t listening.

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  6. Pingback: In Memory of Sandy Hook | Empty Nest, Full Life

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