OPINION: Future Teacher’s Letter on Gun Violence in Schools

By Susan Katherine Corkran, Columnist

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” has always been an easy question for me to answer, and I am grateful for the surety my dream job provided me. I always knew that my path was going to be that of a teacher’s, and I look forward to every blessing, challenge and responsibility that goes along with it. Except for one. There is a duty looming over my head that fills me with dread as I think of my future students, and that is the possibility of a school shooting.

There is a national routine we follow in the wake of a mass shooting, and by now we are all familiar with the script. I am not going to add fuel to the fire of the country’s debate on guns. I am one student in a sea of people, and the likelihood of my voice echoing above any others’ is infinitesimal. I don’t have the solution to stopping this bloodbath. All I have is a heart filled with the desire to teach, and the fear of what I am going to have to teach my children when it comes to the very real possibility that they will be made unsafe in their own school

I am hoping to teach at an elementary school level, which means that I may very well be one of the first adults in their life who discusses safety drills involving gun violence. I will have the responsibility of making sure they know what to do, where to hide, and how best they may survive if an attacker with a gun opens fire upon them. The mere fact that this education is necessary is heartbreaking, yet it is the reality I face. I also know that, if the worst should happen, my own response to the danger will mean the difference between life and death to the children in my protection.

As I learn how to walk my students through the basic steps of solving an addition problem or writing their alphabet, I will be doing so much more than overseeing a collection of worksheets and scribbled-upon class projects. The first teachers children ever have are the ones who build up their confidence in their ability to learn. They are tasked with making each student understand the importance of education and the power within everyone to make something of themselves through what they learn. Teachers shape us in ways that we cannot even begin to imagine, and this in turn shapes the world we all live in. The first lessons we gain from our elementary school teachers should be based in love, kindness, respect and bravery—bravery especially to always try new things, push ourselves to reach high goals and never settle for the easy ways out of a challenge.

It is a tragedy that those first lessons must also include our generation’s “duck and cover.”

Graphic by Billy Ferguson