In the aftermath of yet another school shooting, our national debate has centered around a handful of “solutions” that can be categorized into three groups:
We have the “no guns” crowd (masquerading as the “fewer guns” crowd) who believe that passing a series of laws making it harder for people to buy firearms is the answer.
There’s the “people not guns” contingent who believe we don’t do enough about those with mental health problems and who blame the coarsening of our culture (usually due to those damn videos games and Hollywood movies!) for turning people into unfeeling monsters.
Then we have the “more guns” folks who believe if we just put more weapons in schools then the would-be child killers would stay home or at least shoot up some other densely populated place. They recommend schools hire armed security guards or want laws that allow teachers to pack heat.
I won’t go into all of these proposed solutions, but I must admit to rolling my eyes at those who want to arm teachers. Many of them are the same people who think American education sucks and it’s the fault of lazy, untrustworthy educators.
I’m tempted to shout, “Oh, so now you trust us!” Because they certainly haven’t up to this point.
While politicians may talk about including teachers more, they continue to make policy without asking us. School boards make decisions without our input. Administrators establish policies that betray their true feelings about the people working under them. The treatment of teachers leaves little room for doubt: Most people, inside education and outside of it, think we’re not worthy of trust.
If your school district bans videos or requires you to get permission to show them, it’s because they don’t trust you to use them as instructional tools instead of as time wasters.
If your district requires you to show up when class is not in session to do administrative work, it’s because they don’t trust you to manage your own time and get the work done when and where you want.
If your district tracks the number of sick days you’ve used and levels insinuations, it’s because they don’t trust that you’re using them appropriately.
If your district counts the number of copies you make and makes teachers feel guilty for making them, it’s because they don’t trust you to make decisions about instructional resources (and also because they’re cheap).
If your district provides one-size-fits-all professional development, it’s because they don’t trust teachers to professionally develop themselves if they were simply given paid time to do so.
If your administration requires you to meet in PLCs and collects agendas from those meetings, it’s because they don’t trust you to use the time how you best see fit.
If the threat of evaluations is used to get teachers to use “best practices,” it’s because they’re not trusted to use them on their merits or figure out what works on their own.
If your district requires you to teach a Board-adopted program with strict fidelity, it’s because they don’t think much of your teaching abilities.
If you’re required to adhere to a pacing guide, it’s because you’re not trusted to determine what and how much instruction and practice your students need.
If administrator walkthroughs are evaluative instead of supportive, it’s because you’re not trusted to do your job.
If you need to seek approval before trying anything new, it’s because you’re not trusted to make decisions.
If you’re required to turn in lesson plans, it’s because you’re not trusted to design good lessons or even to follow the prescribed program that lays out all the lessons for you.
What’s baffling is there seems to be little reason for the lack of trust. Most teachers receive high ratings from their principals. In surveys, the public consistently rates teachers as some of the most trustworthy professionals in the workforce. Even students think their teachers are pretty good. The average score for teachers on Ratemyteachers.com is 4.46 out of 5.
So while it might be tempting to think that, when it comes to protecting our students’ lives, politicians have decided that teachers can finally be trusted, you’ll understand my skepticism. You don’t trust me to do my job, but you trust me to handle a gun? How’s that?
The truth is that arming teachers has nothing to do with trusting them. You don’t suddenly hand a firearm to the same people you’ve been micromanaging. It has everything to do with money and a lack of political will to actually address the problems. The reasons some politicians are suggesting we arm teachers is because:
They don’t like spending money on education, and school districts would expect additional funding to hire trained security guards. Little if any additional money is needed to allow teachers to carry their own pieces.
A cynic might suggest that arming teachers is simply another way to sell more guns, which is just what the powerful gun lobby wants.
Such a law would provide convenient scapegoats every time there’s a shooting.
Here’s how you know this isn’t about trust: Because once again, no one has asked teachers what they think about a law that would directly influence them and their students.
But hey, at least if states allow teachers to arm themselves, then when another shooting does happen, politicians won’t have to blame their own inaction, or guns, or inadequate mental health care, or video games. They can blame the teachers, who either weren’t brave enough to fire back or weren’t selfless enough to arm themselves, even though they didn’t want and shouldn’t have that responsibility in the first place.
Then the gutless politicians can point where they’re used to pointing and say, “Well, we shouldn’t have trusted them.”