Yet another one, another school shooter. More students dead. A few teachers too. It happens so often, I should be desensitized by now.
It happened when I was in elementary school, the Columbine massacre.
It happened when I was in high school, Virginia Tech. I was scared but thought that he was just a psycho. My high school got nervous, and tried to get us to wear identity lanyards so that this wouldn’t happen again. Fat chance, no identity lanyard in the land would stop a school shooter. Seungo-Hui Cho was a student there and would have had that lanyard anyway. Not a real deterrent.
Sandy Hook happened when I was in college.
But now it happened at a high school in Florida. During my first year of teaching.
I am a city girl but the only job that I could get was in the Middle of Nowhere. It was full of guns, meth, and the military.
The day that I moved into my apartment building, there were shell casings in the driveway. I met one of my neighbors, he was friendly and told me about how if any man bothered me to tell him and that he kept guns in his house. He also suggested that I take a class out at the shooting range.
This was the first year that the school had gates and I was told to keep my classroom door locked at all times.
I did not fit in from my colorful tennis shoes to my never having shot a gun or rode a dirt bike. But I tried to open my arms to this new place. I thought that it would be a good place to start my teaching career as this was not the big city and the kids would be easier to deal with. This was not some school with metal detectors and gangs. This was going to be different.
And it was different. It was my first year of teaching and I made every mistake possible. I was an unpopular teacher and frequently told by my students, “Everybody hates you.” or “You know nobody likes you, not even the students who you don’t have.”
I had students who could not relate to me. I might as well have been an alien.
I had students who did not understand how to behave. They threw crayons and roaches and old picked off chewing gum at each other and locked each other in cupboards. They thought that it was fine to scream at me, “I fucking hate you, you dumbass fucking bitch.” They would try to play basketball in the classroom and go through my desk.
I did not know how to discipline. I called parents and assigned detention but they didn’t care. Some parents would discipline, some would throw up their hands and not know what to do, and some say, “Well, my child doesn’t like you and thinks that you don’t like her.” As if that was justification for saying, “Why did the school hire a retard for an English teacher?”
It seemed like most of my students had a parent or relative in jail. I had kids telling me that their dad would buy them a puppy when he got out in five years. Or that a girl told me her mother could not get custody back of her because she couldn’t get a job and she couldn’t get a job because she had a felony for burglary and drug possession. Or the boy who had his brother was in jail for gang related offenses and was shot in the head.
But it got stranger. I had a student who yelled out in class multiple times, “I want to kill somebody before I die.” When I reported it to the counsellor she dismissed this as this girl being dramatic. Another teacher suggested that this girl should join the military.
I had a student who said that my class was boring and that he was going to slash the tires of my car. He was also a student who I had had to break up a fist fight when he tried to beat up another boy.
I had a student who did exactly what he wanted. He did not want to put his backpack where it was supposed to be so it stayed with him. He did not want to take his new seat so he sat where he wanted to next to a friend. The resource teacher enabled him and said that it didn’t really matter because that was not a battle worth fighting. When he felt like it, he would just run out of class.
There was another student who I did not have, who sat in detention one day, and said that he would like to put a bullet in the vice principal’s head because this was war. He got suspended because the woman in charge of detention reported it. The vice principal could have had him expelled but thought that the boy didn’t really mean it. But because of reporting it, the woman in charge of detention was subject to a myriad of threats from students who saw her as a snitch.
One of the other teachers had students coming to her house and video taping her eating dinner and themselves ringing the bell and then running away. She contacted the police.
I had students who instead of saying the mandatory pledge of allegiance, heiled the flag and did not understand why I got upset.
I had a student who wore a Make America Great Again hat everyday, who told me that his calling his friend a faggot was not offensive and that he would beat up anybody who kneeled down for the flag. He also told me to “get my goddamned tits out of his face.”
At a staff meeting we had an active shooter training. Apparently, the year before, the school had had several lock downs because of shootings in the area. A few years earlier, a boy’s father had murdered somebody and the police were scared that he was going to come pick up the son and there would be a hostage situation.
One of the teachers said that her classroom had a bullet hole in it from one of the neighbors.
I recalled how when I started teaching my biggest worry was about not teaching to the test.
Because of the shooting threat, every person had to check in at the office and would have to leave packages at the office rather than be allowed to deliver them. This is what the shooter in San Bernardino had done.
The vice principal said that every time that there had been a lock down, the students had cooperated. They realized how serious this was. It did not matter how ill behaved and rowdy the class was.
Many of the teachers had had to go to an active shooter training where they had to navigate the school away from the shooter, hide in the library, and if they were not successful, the shooter would come in and fire blanks at them and the teachers would have to pretend to be dead. Then the fake SWAT team would arrive.
We were given a procedure, so we knew what to do if a shooter came. The admins would pinpoint where the shooter was and announce it on the PA to make him panic. None of us were to leave our classrooms. We had to get down and hide beneath the desks. Use the sink, if you need a toilet. There was no teaching, or music, or movies, or any type of noise. Silence was the key. Then if the shooter was not near, we had to escort out our students. Get out!
Then the shooting in Florida happened. The NRA wanted to bring guns to teachers. I couldn’t even get my students not to steal my candy or ink themselves with my stamps that were in my desk. When this happened, I got so angry with students that I could barely stop myself from swearing at them and having a gun would not have been a good option.
I was talking to another teacher about the shooting a few days ago. She was talking about how the boy who wouldn’t take his seat had the same eyes as the shooter, Nikolas Cruz.
We talked about a few more things and she said how the boy who told me to get my tits out of my face was so deeply racist and homophobic and had his hair cut the same way as Hitler and it was not an accident. She expects him one day to end up a shooter.
I wonder if Nikolas Cruz’s teachers ever had a conversation like this.