Public Schools and Guns

I am a public school teacher.  The irony of teachers being the heroes this week after standing between students and a gun – is not lost on me.  

After being villainized for the last few years, I guess my main surprise is that someone else noticed that teachers are heroes.  It seems apparent to me . . .  teachers are heroes.  I work with dozens of heroes every workday.  I know many people who give everything they have – to teach students.  I’m not surprised by the events in Connecticut.  My only surprise is that the general public seemed to finally notice teachers again and find something to value about us.

I don’t expect this admiration to last long because Americans have to get back to the bottom line soon.  Someone in a corporation needs to make money.

I am a public school teacher.  The response of gun lovers this week has been – disgusting.

Before dead children were laid in the grave and the nation had time to process the tragedy, my social media and local blogs were filled with NRA trolling.  GUNS – we must protect our right to bear arms was the chant.  How exactly did a school shooting, children dying, public school staff being killed while trying to protect babies . . .  lead to the conservative gun-positive trolling that followed?  It was offensive.  I’m not surprised, just disgusted. The NRA has an agenda – and they really put it out there this week.  Is it hypercritical of me to think that the NRA is about — making money?  The last thing the NRA is really concerned about is children or the people who teach them to read when they have their eyes on the prize – $$$.

I am a public school teacher.  I’m at risk daily.  In case you want to know, I’m regularly threatened.  I’m not unaware of the risk I take – I’m just willing to take the risk.

Sometimes it’s students.  Sometimes it’s parents.  Sometimes it’s colleagues.  It comes with the territory.  I play defense non-stop.  Think about my job.  Every person that is in jail or will go to jail – has most likely attended public school.  Every person on death row has most likely sat for over a decade in a classroom.  The crazy neighbor who is awful to everyone – he was, most likely, taught in public school.  Public school takes everyone.  I deal with a variety of students, parents, and other individuals daily.  Not all of them are sane, nice, or good.  But that’s the job.  It’s America.  Teachers try.  Teachers try against all odds.  AND we don’t do it for the $$.  How much do you pay a person who works in a risky environment?

 [A]verage NRA have fallen significantly as a percentage of GDP per capita over the past 30 years, reducing the relative rewards of teaching (see exhibit 1). Today starting teacher salaries average $39,000 nationally, and rise to an overall average of $54,000, with an average maximum salary of $67,000. This does not compare favorably to other professional options for top college graduates, particularly in major metropolitan areas (see exhibit 2 for an international comparison). [McKinsey & Co. report, September 2010] 

I am a public school teacher.  I’m not willing to pack a weapon.

I’m aware that some of my colleagues think this is a solution.  What does this look like?  Try to make a difference in a classroom full of students with a holster on your hip?  I tie shoes – I don’t check closets for intruders.  I’m aware that my legislators and politicians might think that metal and cartridges hanging off a belt will solve public school problems; they haven’t taught anyone to read.  Frankly, I’m not willing to police my classroom or students.  I went into teaching to help students learn.  If I wanted to perform security or patrol duties, I would have chosen a different profession.  If it doesn’t help kids – I’ll have no part of it.  I see no benefit and only problems with allowing teachers or students to have weapons in a public school.  Frankly, we have too much to do while we are at school.

I am a public school teacher.  I spend my own money often to do my job.

Every month I buy classroom paper.  Every year I buy school supplies for my entire classroom, in case students don’t bring their own – I provide it.  Basic supplies like pencils, crayons, glue, scissors, erasers, markers, and journals.  Yes, I am allowed to “write-off” $200 worth of job related expenses.  That amount is spent by most public school teachers I know before the school year even begins.  It’s laughable.  Teachers in Nevada pay $150 to be fingerprinted – so that everyone knows if we are a criminal.  I pay $240 to renew my license.  I paid for several college degrees to become a teacher.  I hope to pay off my school loans before I retire.  Lucky me, I can get a second or third job in the summer to help me get ahead.  Doesn’t everyone?  I was willing to do all this to be prepared to do my job and be a teacher.

I am not going to buy bullets.  I am not going to buy a gun safe.  I am not going to buy lessons to learn to safely use a gun.  For the record, this school teacher has noticed that conservatives seem to be willing to arm me – but are not willing to buy paper?  Something is wrong there.

New handguns are a fairly expensive investment. However, unlike most things that you buy today, they hold their value. The low end of the handgun market is probably around $350 for a good quality weapon. Prices go up from there to over $1000. In the long run, if you’re looking at personal defense, the choice of weapon is not going to be as important as your commitment towards learning how to use it. A $1000 weapon that has never been shot by its owner is going to be a lot less effective in an emergency than a $250 revolver that the user is proficient at using. 

I am a public school teacher.  As I listen to the gun loving rants.  It strikes me as insane.  

Some in our nation would arm the teachers at considerable cost.  And those same people would spend 50% of public school instructional time and budgets on testing.  And those same people think it’s fine to put 40 or more students in each classroom.  And those same people think it’s fine to not provide materials for learning.  And those same people think I am a failure because my students are at-risk and live in poverty.  And some are willing to put people in prison instead of investing in prevention and education.  And some think that only their children should receive an education, while others are not deserving.  And some take “choice” from others by insisting on draining public school funds with vouchers and charters so they can have “choice”.  May God have mercy on their souls.

Isn’t the real truth that big money involved in making policy in this country – makes more money selling weapons than it does educating students?  The decisions we are making are based on $$ not kids.  And personal gun ownership actually costs us all dearly.

Making and selling guns and ammunition is a lucrative business for U.S. firearms companies, which will earn nearly $1 billion in profit this year, according to the market research firm IBISWorld. But for the public, the prevalence of guns in American life comes at a steep price — more than 30,000 deaths a year that cost the health care system and the economy tens of billions of dollars, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show.

I am a public school teacher.  I work in North Las Vegas.  My students are at risk.  

About 80% of my students are able to receive free or reduced lunch.  They start off 2 or 3 years behind the nation before they enter my Kindergarten classroom or public school at all.  They are loving, kind, resilient, determined, and innovative – none of which shows up on a standardized test.  My school is in the paper as a failure.  We are published on a website as not meeting AYP.  We are threatened with take-over by Edison or some other for-profit group or becoming a charter.  The teachers are in need of improvement.  None of us can compete with scores from students who have more advantages and the things they need to succeed.  Everyone is learning at my school, but we are not competing well.  Yet, this week I heard . . . a gun is what we need?  I have a list of things we need . . . a gun is NOT on it.

I am a public school teacher.  I have been labeled at failing, harassed for living on the “government dole”, told I’m worthless, bothered at work in the name of “reform”, and criticized for being a union thug.  

I’m no longer a professional; I’m to be micro-managed until get students to produce a score.  And I am not alone – it’s a national-reform-to-produce-scores-movement.  According to big money and big business – teachers are the root of all that is wrong in a broken educational system. We have been measured and found wanting.  Bad teachers must be removed – even if we trample all the teachers in the nation to do it.  Of course, business has to prove teachers – especially unionized teachers – are failures.  How else will they get at the biggest piece of any state budget- public education dollars?  It doesn’t matter to business that teachers and students are being irreparably damaged along the way – someone is trying to make money.

Yet, some would arm us all?  We are failing. . . but must have a gun?  

Does this logic make any sense?

In summary, this Kindergarten teacher has noticed the extremist priorities.

This last week exposed the right-wing hawkish underbelly.  Conservatives and gun-handlers have been insensitive, insane, and money driven for the entire world to view this last week.  Trolling for guns, guns, guns and the right to bear them.  Announcing and lying in front of the nation that guns are good – even great for public schools.  Children are dead.  The mentally ill are still roaming.  And the gunslinger rightwing extremists are screaming about failing schools and insisting I should pack a weapon and patrol the halls.

Hear me now – I teach people to read and think.  That is my weapon.  

We will become obsolete with an eye for an eye mentality.  America is better than this.  We need to stop making decisions about our public schools based on false research, no research, or business model ideas that are promoted by the big money conservative agenda.  We need to start being smart about what is best for the the future of our nation and children.  If public schools are about educating children, we need to focus on items and priorities that will teach people the things they need to become self-reliant and good citizens.

The mission of public schools should not be to make the NRA rich or follow an ALEC legislative agenda established by a group of organized conservatives to get at the tax payer dollars allocated for public schools.  Public schools should be about supporting teachers and students in learning.

Guns in public schools – will not teach anyone to think, learn, or read.