Tag Archives: school

Make me safe, don’t make me armed: one teacher’s thoughts on school shootings

This past week, although I have not personally endured losing colleagues, friends, students, children of my own, I have had to stand by helplessly and watch as others in my teaching community have. I’ve had to read the horrific accounts from fellow Florida teachers within my ELA community who work at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, hearing how brave they had to be for their students while they endured something no teacher and no child should ever have to endure. I had to learn how these teachers lost their colleagues, the people they’ve been accustomed to working with everyday. I had to hear about how some lost their students, students they have bonded with, have formed relationships with, students who have impacted their lives in some meaningful way. Gone. It seems hard to imagine, I’m sure, especially for anyone working in a non-teaching position. But just picture going to work everyday, whatever your job may be, and pretend someone you’ve worked closely with, have had a working relationship with, and maybe even a friendship, is no longer there. Not because they moved, or got a new job, or just decided that career was no longer for them and quit. They aren’t there to interact with you in your place of work anymore because they are dead. And not dead because they died of natural causes, or a freak accident that no one could have prevented. Dead because of some horrific tragedy that could have been prevented. I’m sure you can at least imagine that.

As a Florida educator, I’m mad as hell. The one place children are supposed to be safe, the one place it’s my job to make sure they feel safe, is no longer safe. As teachers, we have enough to worry about with keeping our classroom managed, with making sure our students are in an environment they feeling comfortable learning in. We have enough to worry about with all the late-night grading and lesson planning, with the endless parent teacher conferences and parent emails, with the never-ending professional development required to keep our jobs, with the second jobs we sometimes have to take to make ends meet because our teacher salaries are inadequate. We have enough. So on top of all the many hats we wear during the course of our day, on top of all the things we have to juggle on a daily basis, now we have worry about keeping our students alive? What. Is. Wrong. With. This. Picture.

Look, I get it. As a teacher, we commit ourselves 100% to our students. We go above and beyond for them. We stay after school and offer tutoring to those kids who just don’t get it. We spend our own hard earned dollars on supplies we need to run our classrooms. We coach sports teams, and lead after school clubs, and give our time to any student who needs it. It’s what we signed up for when we took the job. No one going into teaching assumes it’s a regular ol’ 9-to-5 that doesn’t require any extra effort on our part. I know that. But how dare anyone who’s never set foot in a classroom as a teacher, who’s never experienced even one day in the life of a schoolteacher, come at us and say we are the ones who need to do more. Are you freaking kidding me? We bend over backwards to make sure our students are well cared for, that they have all the tools necessary to succeed. It’s not our job to be armed and ready to ward off any unstable person that decides to come at us with a gun. You want me to be armed as a teacher? Do you even understand what you’re asking of us? This is what you’re asking of us teachers:

  1. Learn how to be comfortable around guns. Because I’m sure as hell not. I respect other people’s right to bear arms, but I don’t like guns and wouldn’t feel comfortable owning one. So good luck getting me over that hurdle.
  2. Learn how to properly use said gun. Let’s say hypothetically I get over my dislike of being around guns. Now I have to be trained how to use the damn thing? And who is paying for that training?
  3. Figure out a place to keep said gun in classroom where no students will have access to it, yet will still be within reach should I ever need it to blow away an intruder. Yeah, this part is a real head-scratcher. So let’s say you convinced me to carry a gun, and you got me the training I need to know how to properly discharge it. Now where the f*ck am I supposed to keep this gun in my classroom? I can’t keep it on my person, because what if some dumb kid (and there are plenty of those in middle school where I teach) decides to be funny and try to grab at it? What happens if that dumb kid accidentally shoots me, or himself, or a classmate with it? Can’t be packing a piece while I’m trying to teach my students how to write a thesis statement. So where do I put it? In a desk drawer? It would have to be locked to prevent those same dumb kids from trying to get at it. So how am I truly supposed to get to it in the event of an emergency that would require it? Oh, and by the way, why the heck am I supposed to be responsible for having a gun?!

It just doesn’t seem feasible, not to mention it’s not something we as teachers should have to do. We shouldn’t have to worry about how we are going to protect our students from murderers. We shouldn’t have to make sure we have a way to defend ourselves when that crazed killer shows up on our campus. As teachers, we have to keep our students safe, yes. We have to keep them safe from bullies. We have to keep them safe from lack of confidence. We even have to keep them safe from their families if they don’t have a stable home life, or keep them safe from themselves if they’re thinking of hurting themselves. We shouldn’t have to keep them safe from disturbed individuals with easy access to a gun.

Guns aren’t going away. Mental illness isn’t going away. I’m not some delusional, irrational person who thinks the answers to all our problems lies in banning all guns. I’m actually a very rational human who just wants my students, and myself, to be safe everyday when we walk into our school. We can have that again if we just reform certain laws, like the ones that allow anybody to purchase any type of gun they please. No average person outside the military needs to own an assault rifle, so why allow them to? Give us better funding to support students with mental illnesses so we can prevent these thoughts becoming a reality. Tackle the issues before they have a chance to manifest into such tragedies. I would rather be armed with knowledge and resources on how to prevent my students from ending up as that crazy ex-student who shoots up a school. I don’t want to be literally armed and just twiddling my thumbs doing nothing, awaiting the day I have to use my gun to fight off a killer. Why can’t we just prevent the killer from manifesting in the first place?

Watching some of these brave teenagers address the president earlier today during the White House listening session brought tears to my eyes. One brother of Meadow Pollack, one of the 17 victims, said we just need to let all these ideas free-fly, that it’s important to let everyone be heard and then decide what to do with the information. How is it that a high school student can be so wise when the politicians we’ve elected to have that same intelligence are incapable? It really shouldn’t be this hard. Schools are supposed to be safe havens. Make them safe for us again. That’s all we want.

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Who am I?

So today I gave my first of (hopefully) many mentoring talks to the middle schoolers and, although most of them weren’t super excited about the idea of discussing harder-to-talk-about-topics (though I did have one class who were very engaged, go me, I know), I still think I got through to most of them (at least I can pretend that I did to sleep better at night). This week’s topic was personal identity; more specifically, asking yourself “Who am I?” and then trying to work through figuring it out.

It’s kind of an interesting and difficult topic to broach, especially given the age group, because it’s an awkward and weird time for most kids in middle school. But not only that, figuring out who you are can be a challenge no matter the age, because who really knows who they are? I certainly don’t know who the fuck I am. I know what kind of person I am, towards my friends and family and even people I don’t like all that much, and I know what kind of things I like, and the kind of labels you could put on me (if I ever let that happen, ‘cos ain’t no labels goin’ be holding me down, yo), but what does that really say about my core being? I know your identity is made up of many different parts all mashed together, so at least heading in this direction is a good start for me, but how do you ever really know who you are or who you are meant to be? I think the answer is you don’t.

Think about it, you aren’t the same person you were ten years ago. Maybe you still have some of the same qualities and traits, but if you met the younger version of yourself, you’d probably be like what the fuck is wrong with you.

What unfortunate-looking hair. I looked like a boy. Fail.

What unfortunate-looking hair. I looked like a boy. Fail. I still have that shirt.

No, really, what was I thinking?

But seriously, we are a complex creature, mankind, and we’re constantly adapting and evolving to suit our own needs as well as to adapt to our ever-changing environment. I think we just have to do the best with what we have and be good people and enjoy life along the way. And if that doesn’t work for someone else, they can bite me.

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The problem with yearbooks

So it’s finally the end of my first year as a teacher (as mish-mashed as this year has been, it still technically counts as my first year teaching), and I’m realizing now more than ever there’s a problem with yearbooks. Not even so much the fact that my pictures end up in there (thankfully there are only two of me, and they’re both decent) but more the fact that kids want me to actually sign their yearbooks.

Now when I was a kid, I remember this as being a fairly happy and exciting time of year (not to mention the fact that school was OVER and it was SUMMER ERMEHGAD). Signing friends’ yearbooks, as well as the yearbooks of your sworn enemies (I swear, the end of the year brought out a different side of people, i.e. a fake side in which all differences from the past year were thrown aside in favor of a “best friends forever” vibe in which you were forced to sign all the yearbooks of people you couldn’t stand and who, in turn, were forced to sign yours, all the while done with a huge, drugged-out-psycho smile) was always a fun and easy task, because you knew these kids and had probably spent at least the last year of your school career with them, if not longer. So finding the right words to put into each and every person’s yearbooks was never a particularly difficult task. And if all else failed and I couldn’t find the right words, I’d just default on my name and a skillfully drawn doodle of Trogdor. But I’m not sure anyone would get it if I drew a Trogdor in their yearbook (nor would that be deemed acceptable as something a teacher should write in their students’ yearbooks).

Now the advantage I had all year with my crazy, pieced-together job position is that I’ve basically had the chance to teach almost every kid in the school at one point or another, so I can probably recall on command about 98% of the students’ names. So when approached by kids I’ve probably only seen a few dozen times all year to sign their yearbooks, I have no problem remembering who the fuck they are. The problem I’m having is that I don’t know know most of the kids that WELL, so I end up writing the same generic garbage in about 98% of the yearbooks I sign. I can only hope they don’t compare notes and realize I’m just a horrible, lazy, unoriginal fraud of a teacher. To me, it just seems like a lot of pressure for a teacher to endure. I mean, I had to put up with you all year and impart wisdom on you and now you expect me to write some eloquent, meaningful goodbye note in your yearbook? Such high demands, kids. I mean, really, c’mon. I should just start writing random facts in there. For example: “When I was 10 years old, I had a pair of mittens. Love, Ms. Bodwell.” They probably wouldn’t get it, but it would be hilarious to me. I think I’ll go with that for next year. Done.

P.S. I realize this is also about a week late on my own part, but I guess that just makes me a procrastinator as well as a horribly unoriginal teacher. A lot of schools are just now getting out though, so I find some comfort in knowing I don’t completely suck. It’s not like I’m posting this in September guys, geez.

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From the strange minds of children

We’ve been heavy into FCAT the last few weeks at work, so I figured I’d give my kids a break today with a fun writing exercise. Basically, I gave each student a different story start and they had about 5 minutes to continue the story. When it was time to switch, they each had to continue the stories their peers had started until it was time to switch again and finish the stories. So they got to collaborate on different stories in a fun way. Working with elementary students, I can usually expect to get silly responses when it comes to creative writing, but there are always a few that are especially goofy and make even me laugh when the kids are presenting. Here are two of my favorites:

When I got to school today, there was a new girl in my class. I walked over to her and asked her what her name was and I asked her where she was from and she said she was from Mars. Then I just ran away because she was an alien. She was sick so every time she coughed on someone, she turned them into an alien. Then there was a new kid in the other class named Eliot. Eliot liked her and kissed her. Eliot turned into an alien. Everyone was shocked. But then her father came and said “come on dear” and then he saw Eliot and said “what a handsome boy you are and you and my daughter will get married and we will have a lovely feast and have a party.” The end.

When I was walking home from school, I saw an elephant in the middle of the road. Then there was a BMW coming toward the elephant, then the BMW hit the elephant and he went to Uranus and he had a broken leg. Then Sacajawea popped out of his head and said “the wind will carry you to the place.” The elephant was very hungry and thirsty so Sacajawea had some food and water but the elephant was still hungry so he ate Sacajawea. The elephant was highly trained but it destroyed Mars, and Earth. The end.

It may not be award-winning material, but these kids sure know how to entertain me.

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2 reasons why my college degree is worthless

A year and a half ago, I was ecstatic to finally be leaving the realm of education. After spending roughly 20 years of my life in some form of schooling or another, it felt good to finally hang up the “student” hat and step out into the “real world,” whatever the hell that means (because apparently I’ve been living in a fake world this whole time?).

But now, a year and a half later, I’m no better off than I was before I earned that expensive piece of paper they like to call a diploma (which is somewhere buried beneath a pile of random stuff, still encased inside the special envelope it was mailed to me in). Four mediocre jobs and lots of credit card debt later, I’m back to square one, with no job, no money and no real reason why I should believe my college education is going to save my ass, especially in this economy.

Now, don’t get me wrong, in a lot of ways, a college degree is very useful. Like, say, for using to brag to all your non-educated friends, or for using as kindling to start a fire when your electric is turned off due to lack of payment (see: insufficient funds).

But I feel there are several good reasons why my college degree is completely and utterly worthless, some of them being:

A college degree doesn’t guarantee you a job. Basically, there are no guarantees in life. I get that. But I sure wish someone would have warned me before I wasted five years of my life and thousands of dollars of my dad’s hard-earned money (thanks though, dad, really, I appreciate the support) that the piece of paper I was busting my ass for would only marginally help in getting a halfway-decent job. Classroom learning is important but I’ve always believed life experience was more vital when it came to knowing a profession, especially after all the times I’ve been told there are no entry-level jobs when it comes to publishing, that you have to know what you’re doing before you do it (which obviously makes no sense and clearly supports my belief that experience is more necessary than education), which brings me to my second point:

I graduated with (one of) the most useless majors. Don’t get me wrong. I love English literature and clearly I love writing (who would actually waste their time writing a blog this cynical if they weren’t finding some sort of pleasure from it?) but having a degree in it is like having a degree in cat-napping; you can’t actually do anything with it, except go on for more schooling. Or maybe be a teacher, but even then you have to jump through more hoops and are simply better off with an education degree. A Bachelor’s in English nowadays is a good foundation for any other type of degree or major, and if I was planning on being a lawyer or a psychologist or a publicist, it would be very useful in providing the groundwork I’d need to go on to pursue those careers. But heaven forbid I actually want to utilize the degree as is and have a job that means something without putting myself in student loan debt and spending more years in a classroom. It’s basically impossible. Finding a job in my field (whatever that means) is like finding a needle in a haystack, cliched as it sounds (hey, when you’re this stressed, you can’t think in anything other than cliches). When I was a student, I never had to worry about landing a “real” job, because whatever crap-ass job I was working while attending classes didn’t matter, because there was always the promise of something better that was just out of reach, waiting for me after just one more class, just a few more credits. But sitting around as a broke, unemployed college grad doesn’t exactly scream success, so what’s a bitter, almost-twenty-four-year-old like me to do?

Ok, screw this “real world” business, I’m going back to school.

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Filed under Cynicism, Entertainment, Humor, Uncategorized