Because we are teachers

Dec 19, 2012 by

Kenneth J. Bernstein

Kenneth J. Bernstein

Kenneth J. Bernstein – we take seriously that the first charge we have is to keep our students safe.

At Columbine a coach, William David Sanders, was shot when he went out into the dangerous area probably to try to warn more students.

At Virginia Tech Prof. G. V. Loganathan was shot before his students were, and Professor Liviu Librescu, an Israeli Holocaust survivor, forcibly held the door to keep Cho out so his students could escape from the danger, himself dying for his troubles with shots through the door.

And in Sandy Springs, 6 adult females died trying to protect their students, from principal Dawn Hochsprung and counselor Mary Sherlach to teachers and substitutes –  Rachel Davino, Anne Marie Murphy, Lauren Russo, and Victoria Soto.

In recent years it is hard as a teacher to avoid considering the possibility, of thinking ahead of what we do were we confronted with such a horrible possibility.

A few thoughts

As a teacher I have lived through 9-11 and the DC Sniper.  Think of the latter, who after the police chief had remarked that at least the children were safe targeted a middle school boy at a school that in part fed the High School in which I taught.  I was the first teacher to know, because I was talking with our school resource officer when he got a call informing him.  I knew we would be evacuating our outside classrooms, and for almost a week we had to try to teach in the balcony of the auditorium.

We had a lockdown at my last school when someone was seen with a gun across the street from the school.  I remember having to assure my students that even though I was a Quaker I was prepared to kill to protect them.  When questioned what I could do were a gunman to come in I picked up a pencil and said “I can kill him with this.”   I HAD thought about what I might do.

But knowing what one should do does not mean that one knows how s/he would respond in such a crisis.  What is interesting is that it is not unusual for us to place ourselves between our students and danger, even if as was the case in high school some of them were much more imposing physical presences than was I – guys on the football and basketball teams, even some kinds who did amateur boxing seriously.

Because we are teachers, we often put our students first in smaller ways – spending from our own funds to provide things necessary, giving up free time to counsel, to tutor, sometimes to comfort.

Because we are teachers  –  most of us do it not because it is a secure job.  Increasingly it is not, and for most of us it pays far less than what we could make in other endeavors.  We do it because we care about our students, or we do not last.  The job is otherwise too demanding and draining were we to do it without the motivation of caring for our students.

Because we are teachers – we love our children, even when they tell us “I hate you” -we try to remember what it was to be the age of that child, and to respond not from anger but from a deep caring

Because we are teachers –  we put up with the abuse heaped upon us by some politicians and some entrepreneurs seeking to profit from privatizing what should be an essential public function, the education of ALL of our children.

Because we are teachers –

We are around 1% of the population, but with few exceptions most of us make far less than those from our age cohort who have similar education and training.

Yesterday, people learned that some of us will die to protect our charges –  Because we are teachers.

All of us will have to deal with the impact of this shooting.  Some began yesterday, as students began to learn the news.  The rest of us will confront the fears of our own students when they return the classroom in two days.

I make three commitments to my students when they first encounter me

they will be physically safe

they will be emotionally safe

they will be intellectually safe, even as I challenge them and their thinking

Because I am a teacher, I remember again that it may cost me my life.

That changes nothing about what I would do.

Because I am one of that group we call teachers

Because we are teachers. . .

Daily Kos: Because we are teachers.

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