Yesterday March for our Lives, a student led protest demonstration for gun control took place across America and across the world. I don’t think you could’ve missed the protests, the walk outs, the media coverage if you’ve been online at all recently.
As a teacher in Northern Ireland I don’t have anywhere near the level of worry and fear that my counterparts in America have. It is very unlikely that I will have to carry out active shooter drills in my classroom. But that should be the same over the world. No child should have to be trained in how to respond in a school shooting. If you have to prepare your pupils for that, its because its likely. A school shooting. A likely event. That is an horrendous, sickening thought and surely it should be a wake up call to legislators. There are schools preparing their children with buckets of river stones. There are six year olds being given lollipops for “being good” and “staying silent” during active shooter drills. Enough is Enough. The signs from the protests say it all – “I can’t even bring peanut butter to school [picture of gun outlawed]”, “I should be leaving school in a cap and gown, not a bodybag”, “Girls’ clothing is more regulated than guns” “my college fund shouldn’t pay for my funeral” and “18th Century laws cannot regulate 21st century weapons.”
In my short teaching career I’ve been in school during a bomb scare three times, twice during the teaching day and once before school opened. They were scary but they were once offs, not a constant fear or plausible daily threat.
The first scare was during my first year of teaching. I had a class of 4-5 year olds and a message came round after lunch saying that the school was in lock down as there was a suspicious device on the street outside the front doors. I was told to close the curtains and keep the children away from the windows. We didn’t know what time we would be able to let the children go home but the kitchen was working out how to feed everyone dinner.
I remember pulling the blinds down and telling my class we were going to rearrange the furniture “to give us more room for playing,” I pulled all the desks away from the wall of windows and set out all the play equipment on the other side of the room. My class thought they were getting a treat, extra play time. I kept trying to think of ways to keep my class safe all the while keeping myself calm so the class didn’t pick up that anything was wrong. When it was announced on the news the parents tried to come to the school to collect their children but couldn’t get through to the school because of the police cordon sectioning off the street. After an hour or so we were able to get the children out of the school – the police said we could leave the school out through the football pitch and onto a side street and that they would allow parents through to collect the children and take them home.
My class didn’t know what was going on but I did. I can’t imagine how to explain to a 4 year old that we have to practice incase someone comes in to school with a gun, never mind if it wasn’t a drill and there was a shooter in the school. I can’t imagine the level of fear it would instill in them and in me. I can’t imagine a world where that’s a plausible situation to be in. No teacher should be able to, yet its reality for teachers and students across America.
I hope there’s a change in gun control legislation and I hope it comes quickly.
No child should be afraid to come to school.
No teacher should have to work out how to protect their classes from being killed.
No parent should drop their child to school, say goodbye and wonder if this is the last time they’ll see them alive.
I’m standing with all those who marched yesterday and continue to call for a reform in legislation. Its badly needed. Keep going.