It just got real.
After leaving a high-school staff meeting, I am shocked at the paradigm shift regarding teachers’ responsibilities, but I am also shocked by what appears to be — “This is our new reality, so roll with it” — directed at me. Us.
I just want to say: “Stop one moment, let me understand. Are you saying what I think you’re saying? Are you implying, no stating, that I need to prepare to take on an active shooter and defend my life as well as my 30-plus students in my class? But wait, just one second, sir, I don’t mean to be rude. But, but, but, I‘m not trained!”
This imaginary conversation, of course, is taking place in my head, because I would not dare stop the presentation and suggest that the high danger, unknown variables, my low preparation for violence, my lack of physicality, and even my fragile mental state ( I’m a straight-up academic) prepares me in no way to be Rambo-esque and heroic. On the contrary, I am used to being saved by the hero. I am the beautiful damsel in distress. Hello!
The auditorium is quiet. Teachers are listening, and the “Active Trainer” video being shown from YouTube is scary enough that I close my eyes. Because what’s being portrayed is not a movie but a realistic depiction of an active shooting. Look, I read books, paint and listen to Christian and soft jazz music. I teach young people how to interpret and process information. My students are pummeled to discuss and collaborate with their peers on diverse texts, philosophical ideals and argumentative claims. I shape my young people for the world outside where I hope they can be committed, productive citizens who are: literate and competent speakers and writers; able to decipher diverse and dense text; and solve problems. I don’t know if I am trained to teach them how to survive an attack because I am not sure I know how to survive an active shooter myself.
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The thought hounding me as I leave the meeting: I’m not prepared. I need more training. I need interactive training; scenarios to expose me to a rehearsed violence because I don’t even know how a real gun sounds. (Every time the AK-whatever rifle fires in the video, I flinch at its ferocity, punctuated sounds that repetitively punch my ears). The tall, muscular officer states, pointedly, “We are putting a lot on you. You are very important. ” Hell yeah, I retort silently, always have been, always will be. He continues, “If you can get to safety, take as many kids as you can.”
A cold chill settled on my shoulders as I walk to my car; every step in my summery high heels appears to thud a clunkety-clunk-clunk in unison with my heart. I don’t know which sound is which.
All I do know is, I need more training.
It just got real.
EDWENA TIMPSON, PALM BEACH GARDENS
Editor’s note: Timpson is an English teacher at Palm Beach Central High School in Wellington.