Rants, Teacher

Dear Mr. Lapierre, VP of the NRA – I’m a teacher…so, where’s my gun?

A fourth grade teacher receives firearms training in West Valley City, Utah. (Rick Bowmer/Associated Press)
A fourth grade teacher receives firearms training in West Valley City, Utah. (Rick Bowmer/Associated Press)

Hi, Wayne…may I call you Wayne? You don’t know me, but I’m a teacher. And I gotta tell you, you’re starting to scare me.I know you have the best of intentions. Like all of us, you don’t want to see anymore children killed because some lunatic with a gun was able to get into a school and go on a rampage. So far, I’m with you. And I even agree that some schools would benefit from having a trained police officer in their school. Some of the high schools in my area have one and it’s great. They offer all kinds of services besides standing armed guard.

Where you lose me is when you suggest that perhaps school personnel ought to be armed.

When I was a kid, my father hunted and he kept two shotguns on the floor of his bedroom closet. My brother and I knew they were there and we also knew where he kept the ammunition (in his sock drawer). We also knew that if we went anywhere near the guns, we wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week. And so we didn’t. To be honest, they scared me to death. My dad tried to teach me how to shoot. The first (and only) time I fired off a gun, I just missed hitting one of my grandparent’s cows.

So seriously, Wayne, no one wants to see me with a gun. No amount of training in the world is going to turn me into a sharpshooter. I know you would offer to give me training and such, but really, it’s all I can do to keep up with the new math curriculum.

And even if I wanted one, I can’t imagine that my school board would allow me to keep a gun in my desk. For gawds sake, I’m not allowed to use Lysol wipes to clean the children’s desks because of the chemicals. Liquid Paper is a no-no because someone might try to sniff it. Even plastic knives in lunchboxes are taboo, because someone might accidentally cut their finger or god forbid, wave it around near another child.

Finally, I have no idea where I would keep a gun in my classroom. My desk is overflowing and my cabinets are full. I’d have to keep it well hidden, because these kids are like monkeys! They can get their hands on anything and I sure as hell don’t want them getting a hold of a loaded weapon. These kids are experts at Call of Duty IV.

I know you’ve offered to put one of your 4 million NRA members in our school and I thank you for your generous offer. But, no offense or anything, how do I know one of your well-armed men or women isn’t a raging lunatic under the surface? I mean, really…do you know ALL 4 million of these people personally?

There are crazy people everywhere who look and act just like you and me. Giving one of them a gun and inviting them into my school just doesn’t seem like a good idea.

So, thanks, Wayne, but I’ll pass. I’ll pass on the gun, just like I’ll pass on the bunker in case of a nuclear attack and the body armor to protect myself from a zombie apocalypse. Instead, I’ll support stricter gun control laws and increased mental health services. That should help keep the crazies out of my school and let me get back to my real job of teaching.

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Memoir, Teacher

“You smell like fruit” and other compliments from my students

Marshall was an odd boy, by any definition of the word. He didn’t have an official “diagnosis” but he was definitely…outside the norm. For one, he talked like a robot and two, he was little obsessed with aliens and anal probing.

I started teaching his class late that year. My mother died on the first day of school, so I was in Ontario when they all arrived. Being the conscientious teacher that I was, I gave the eulogy, packed up some of her things, gave my father a fortifying hug and was back to work within the week. (Ed. note: yes, I know. Craaaazy!)

It was a new school for me and starting late did nothing to ease my angst. My large class of grade 5’s was well known for their “specialness”.  When I arrived at the school, I was told, “Oh sorry. You have that group. Good luck.” There was something in the water the year those children’s parents got together and it’s quite possible that “thing” was alcohol. (I’m not accusing anyone but seriously ladies: put down the wine glass until after your kid is born. There’s plenty of time to drink once they’re teenagers. And trust me, you’re going to need it then.)

Anyway, that year was a hard one for me and, no doubt, for Marshall. As I said, he was odd and he didn’t have a lot of (read: any) friends. This didn’t seem to bother him though, as he spent all of his time reading. He read in language arts class, math class, science class, lunch…you get my drift. And whenever I tried to get him back on track, he would just sigh and say in his robot voice, “I’d rather not.”

Of course it was my job to push the issue, so everyday, he and I would meet to re-do the math lesson from the morning – this time, one-on-one.

“So, today we’re looking at long division, Marshall,” I flip the textbook open to the section we just covered in class while Marshall was reading about aliens.

“You smell like fruit,” he said.

“Oh,” I reply. “Um…thank you?”

“You smell like oranges.”

“Oh.”

Pause

“Do you like oranges?”

“Not particularly. But you smell like them.”

“OK-dokey then.”

Another day.

“Today we’re working on double-digit multiplication, Marshall. Do you remember what we talked about in class?”

“Are you familiar with anal probing?” he stares at me with a serious look. He’s not trying to mess with me…he’s really just curious.

“Uh, yes, I’ve heard of it. But we really need to focus on math right now,” I say, trying to divert the conversation.

“Aliens use these probes to find out information about the human race,” he says. “It’s quite a popular method of information gathering among aliens.”

“Alrighty then.”

Another day.

“So, Marshall.  Today we need to find the area of this square. Do you remember how we figure out how to do that?”

“Area equals length times width,” he intones right away.

“Yes!”

I can’t believe it. He’s on track. He was listening today! I am making a difference. I am such a good teacher.

“So, can you show me how to find the answer to this question?”

“Of course,” he says.

He puts his head down, writes down the formula, fills in the blanks and comes up with the correct answer.

“Excellent,” I crow. “You did it! You are one smart cookie, Marshall. What do you think about that?”

“You smell like the soap from my campground.”