School Climate & Safety Opinion

No Guns For Teachers!

By Jill Berkowicz & Ann Myers — March 08, 2018 3 min read
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Guns in schools that are not on the hips of police officers strikes us as a very dangerous idea. There are several reasons why. First, however, let us say in no uncertain terms, the safety of the children is paramount. Educators are fully aware of the responsibility they have from drop off to pick up. We have written about that before, actually as recently as last week. It is a responsibility educators take seriously and carry every minute of their working lives.

Consider simply the possibilities that exist with allergies, medications that need to be taken, a fall in gym class or on the playground, the headcount on school trips, an injury on a field or court, a hallway altercation. All such incidents involve our responsibility to be certain that every child is returned home safe and sound at the end of the day. Yet, that is but one strand of our job. We are there to be sure children are learning and engaged, playing and working, growing and developing for or most of the daylight hours 10 months a year.

We are societally oriented to expect to see guns on, or in the hands of, law enforcement officers. They are there to protect us. These are the ones who have chosen to take a particular responsibility to protect us all and maintain order. They are trained to utilize weapons that can take a human life if need be to save others or themselves. Seeing guns of police officers (for most) is not a threatening vision. But law enforcement officers and sportsmen and women alike know one thing: guns can kill.

Teaching and learning involves a highly dynamic relationship. It is one that becomes trusting, encouraging, and empowering at its best. Students need to experience a learning environment in which trust serves as the basis for risk taking and mistake making and arriving at success. Teachers need patience, need to learn how to give encouraging feedback and teach how revision works, even in math and science. Teaching others how to think and how to succeed using skills and information requires a talent. Educators must care for and develop trusting relationships with their students. It is unthinkable to ask these motivators, caretakers, designers of learning opportunities, collaborators, and creators to be prepared to shoot and kill another human being. It doesn’t fit.

Although police officers are trained to care for the communities they serve, they are also trained to shoot to kill. This is so very different from the role of educators. We cannot ask for or expect that educators can do the same job as a law enforcement officer. It simply does not make sense.

With all the focus on defining what students need to know and be able to do in order to graduate from high school prepared for college and/or career, schools have been working hard to redefine for teachers the type of classroom experiences students need. We have asked teachers to design problems to be solved, projects to be developed, and collaboration with other students to be included. We have asked teachers to work with professors from universities and business leaders to design the best and most authentic problems to be solved. We have asked this of teachers of the youngest in kindergarten to the teachers of honors classes in the high schools. We have asked teachers to learn and retool their craft. In a risk averse field like ours, this is quite an ask. Teachers and their leaders have worked to learn, reflect, let go of less effective practices and try new ones. Teachers, like the students with whom they work, are constant learners. By choice for some and leader encouragement for others, they shake off what no longer works and search to remain on the cutting edge with new and engaging practices and technologies that create growthful, new experiences for their students. How does arming them with guns fit into this picture? We think it doesn’t.

Ann Myers and Jill Berkowicz are the authors of The STEM Shift (2015, Corwin) a book about leading the shift into 21st century schools. Connect with Ann and Jill on Twitter or Email.

Photo by 13smok courtesy of Pixabay

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