A Message from a Furious Teacher

This country is out of its damn mind if the only solution we can come up with to gun violence in schools is “arm the teachers.”

I became a teacher for a reason: to educate. To nurture. To inspire. To take care of your kids, and yes, jump in front of a bullet if I have to. But I shouldn’t have to.

I did not choose to become a cop or a soldier or a security guard. I am not a fighter. I am not a killer. I don’t want that on my hands.

You cling to your right to own guns but you have NO RIGHT to require me to take up arms that I don’t believe in.

I already have given up any chance at wealth to teach your kids. I have given up my free time and half my sanity. I come home exhausted every day, sometimes sobbing over somebody’s kid being abused or neglected or trapped in poverty or bullied because even though I know I’m doing the best I can, I can’t protect your kid from everything.

But now you want me to wield a gun? You want me to put aside my personal beliefs and have that responsibility forced on me too?

You want to ask that of me so I can keep YOUR kids safe?

I’m not the one failing your kids. YOU ARE. If you believe more guns are the solution to school shootings, go buy a gun and keep your kids home. Teach them your damn self. YOU be the one ready to stand in front of a bullet and stop demanding other people do it.

Many teachers already HAVE done it. Teachers lay dead right now from defending your kids. Has that stopped anything? If I kill an active shooter, does that do anything to prevent the next one? You think school shooters will be dissuaded by the chance that they will be killed? They’re suicidal. THEY DON’T CARE.

So don’t expect me to lay down my life for your kids when all you’re gonna say when I’m dead is “she should’ve had a gun.”

No, YOU should’ve done more to make sure YOUR kids weren’t at risk and asked yourself why OUR government doesn’t give a shit enough to do anything, and is content to let TEACHERS continue taking the bullets.

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Day 36 – The Difference

If you were ten
I’d be six;
if you were starting school
I’d be a baby,
if I was starting college
you’d be leaving it
and we’d have never met.

If you ask me,
it’s pretty lucky
that you were 29 drinking coffee
and I was 25 drinking tea;
that I wasn’t looking for a man like you
and you weren’t looking for me.

The difference was only
experience-
a teapot ready to boil-
two flowers ripe
to reach towards the sun,
the past laying ground
for one moment
when everything
was ready.

And the difference
doesn’t matter now,
we’re both 4 and 12 and 21,
reliving every stage again
together.

Day 25 – TJ

My first boyfriend,
in 9th grade,
was TJ Peterson.

We went out for 2 weeks
and then I broke it off
because I thought
he didn’t like me enough.

I watched too many movies
and I thought
it should’ve been romantic,
something more obvious,

but he was just my friend
who was funny
who didn’t have any classes with me
so he sent his friend to get a bathroom pass
and deliver me notes
across the school.

They were just about his day,
and whether he did his homework or not,
and some doodles,
that’s all.

We wrote a lot that year,
even though his friends sometimes
gave him grief about it.

Someone said we should date
so we tried it,
but when we held hands
it was so sweaty
and I didn’t like when
people looked at us.

So I said it could never work
and he moved away soon after.
I didn’t really notice because
I liked the new goth kid
and TJ never really
liked me much anyway.

I never figured it real enough
to matter.

But I’m a lot older now,
and I’ve stomached at least one
episode of The Bachelor,
so I’m starting to think maybe
it was as real
as anything
ever is.

Day 14 – Waking Up Early For School

After thirteen years
and four more
there was no escape from school
for me.

I walked right back into that fire.

It has its perks but
I’ll never get used to knowing
I’ll be waking up early for school
for the rest of my life.

At least
there’ll always be
kids
to teach me.

Year 2: Day 110 – The Fourth Grade Class

Love is in the air for the fourth grade class,
though it’s always in the air for grown-ups,
and it’s permeating something fierce
for single teachers.

It’s permeating something fierce
for single teachers who must be
set up with firemen, lawyers,
lumberjacks, cowboys,
and football players.

Lumberjacks, cowboys, and football players,
if single, don’t get this much guff, I bet,
because love is only so simple
in the fourth grade class.

Love is only so simple in the fourth grade class
’cause it gets pretty sticky from there-
you have people with baggage and hang-ups
and teachers who insist they won’t be
set up.

Teachers who insist they won’t be set up
don’t make sense in the playground logic world
because clearly the fun of life is in love
is in the air for the fourth grade class.

52 Flashes of Fiction: Week 14 – The Vandals

It started with Anne of Green Gables, the most boring book we could find. Not one of us would lose a wink of sleep if that book suddenly vanished from existence, so we didn’t much care if nobody ever got to know what happened at the end. The librarians sure were impressed with us for a while, though. They thought we had suddenly taken an interest in works of classic literature- all of us, at the same time. Adults can really be so naive.

I don’t know whose decision it was to hire the worst handyman in the world to service a middle school, but man I’d like to know where they got that guy. We’d see him strolling down the hallways all the time in his bleach-washed jeans rolled up at the ankles, eyeing up a few of the girls and mean-mugging everyone else. I never saw him actually fix anything but I did see him smoking out by the bus ramp whenever I skipped out of class for an afternoon stroll. The first time I saw him I thought for sure he was gonna rat me out but he just glanced at me lazily like I was a passing squirrel, finished his cigarette, and moseyed back inside.

One day me and a couple of guys were hanging at the back of the library passing around a comic book with some juicy female illustrations when we heard one of the librarians call maintenance to come right away. She said Code Orange or Blue or whatever which evidently signaled something between “come kill a roach” and “come dismantle a bomb.” Shortly after, Handyman Hank came rambling in asking, “Where’s it at?” after which we sortof scooted around a shelf to peek and see what was up.

Some nerd had apparently yanked his laptop charger out of the wall so hard that he broke the plug and left one of the prongs sticking out of the wall socket. This posed a “safety hazard,” subject to immediate removal, so Hank lugged out his rubber-handled pliers and popped that sucker out. He purposely swung around and held the prong an inch away from the librarian’s face to show his job well done. I’m sure her reaction was noteworthy, but none of us were looking at her- our eyes were on the bic lighter that had fallen out of Hank’s back pocket during the swift motion.

He didn’t notice it and neither did she, but as soon as he left and her back was turned, one of us snatched it up like a coveted prize. That’s when the whole thing started- I’m not really sure how, but after we took turns flicking it from behind a shelf, somebody had the bright idea to burn pages. Not enough to raise any suspicion, just one page from one book that no one would ever notice.

We didn’t want to set off the smoke alarms, so one of us checked out the agreed-upon travesty, much to the delight of the librarian, and we met after school around the block for the ceremony. Just one page, the second-to-last page- not enough to be noticeable at first glance, but enough to totally ruin the story at the last minute.

We started doing it all the time- we’d take turns having custody of the lighter, and whoever had the lighter got to choose the book, whatever horrible piece of work they’d been forced to read against their will. Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm, Huckleberry Finn; all of them had their endings ruined quickly and quietly, with no outcry from anywhere. We were the censors and we were the curators, and nobody ever knew.

It’s weird to think about it now, what eventually stopped us. The lighter just ran out of fluid, and nobody even bothered to suggest we refill it. I’m not sure if we’d already been getting bored of our game before that or if we were just too lazy to keep the scheme going, but when the lighter died we all just forgot about it and went back to sneaking dirty comic books. We never even got caught.

I sometimes wonder about it though, years later. I wonder if anybody ever did complain about the burned-out pages, or if the librarian ever was suspicious of our sudden literary interests. I wonder if Hank ever noticed his lighter was missing, or if he ever sweat a little for his job, thinking that he might’ve been ratted out by whoever found it. I wonder that none of us ever went on to do anything worse than that few days of vandalism, and that several of us eventually went off to college together.

But mostly I wonder, if I can admit to myself- I wonder why we ever stopped when we could’ve kept it going forever.

52 Flashes of Fiction: Week 13 – Hat Business

“It’s like trying on hats, y’know? Like, you might find a good one that fits when you’re a kid, but your head’s still growing and you might grow out of it. And then when you’re an adult you don’t even bother about trying to squeeze on hats that look too small because you know it’s never going to fit.”

That’s Jake, always with the metaphors. Self-elected sage of the eleventh grade. How would he know about what you do and don’t bother with when you’re an adult? Besides, he’s never even had a girlfriend.

“Boloney,” I say, “that doesn’t even make sense. Don’t you think that relationships are a little more complex than hats? I mean like, if you find a hat that’s way awesome and it doesn’t quite fit, you’re just gonna do the adult thing and make it fit. Like what about a tailor or something, ever think of that?”

“What, like Dr. Phil? You think you’re gonna find a tailor to come Dr. Phil your relationship for you?”

“Yeah whatever, quit smirking. People do it all the time, it’s called marriage counseling. Your head gets fat from a tumor or something and your hat doesn’t fit all the way and then you go to marriage counseling and a tailor can stretch it out so it stays on your head. Easy.”

“Orrr,” he’s still smirking, “just make sure your hat fits the right way, with a little bit of wiggle room. And an adjustable strap.” Now he’s making that “Booosh, mind blown” gesture with his hands and I just roll my eyes and start angrily chewing my mashed potatoes, fuming.

I don’t really remember what even started this tangent. But I refuse to let Jake be right about this hat business because of what that would mean about a future I don’t want to think about. There’s never any loopholes with Jake- you just do things the way they’re supposed to be done and if you mess up then you’re out of luck. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for hope.

“Okay, smarty-pants,” I announce suddenly, “so tell me, how exactly should one go about making sure that their hat is the perfect fit, hmm?”

He furrows his eyebrows and takes a couple of slow swigs of his Yoo-Hoo, then finally says simply, “I don’t know. I haven’t even had a girlfriend. Maybe that’s why.”

I’m about to do the in-your-face thing with the snap when he cuts in before I get a chance:

“But I don’t really think experience has a whole lot to do with it. I think you just have to spend enough time looking in the dressing-room mirror first.”

I’m actually pretty impressed by that answer, but then the bell rings and we just give each other the “Did we really just spend our whole lunch talking about this?” look. With a shrug and a half-way salute we head separate ways back to class.

As I’m yanking a book out of my locker I feel a smack on my shoulder and there’s Jake whizzing by down the hall, a crazed, mischievous look on his face. He shouts back to me:

“Or just keep the receipt and return it!”