Courtney Miller, Kindergarten Teacher at Mariemont Elementary School in Cincinnati, OH
Yesterday I didn’t have the words. Today I have found some words. They may not be the perfect words, but we need to talk about what is happening all around us.
I am not here to offer a moment of silence. In fact, I want to be the opposite of silent. I want to be loud. I want to be heard. Heard loudly and clearly. This. Needs. To. Stop.
I am a teacher.
Each morning, I walk into a school filled with kindergarten through 6th-grade students, and the educators who love them.
As I enter those school doors, I know in the back of my mind that there is a possibility of danger and as an educator I have done my part to plan for it. I know that there is a complex and multi-faceted system put in place by my district and my school that prioritizes the safety of my students. We have worked hard to ensure that it isn't easy to gain entrance to our school. I have walked the layout of my classroom with law enforcement to ensure I know the best way to help my students. I have been taught to think of how my classroom “tools” can be used as weapons as well if needed. I have practiced taking down a gunman by attacking a fully padded officer. I have a baseball bat disguised as a memento from my favorite baseball team that sits by my classroom door, just in case.
I have had the hard conversations with my colleagues about how I will use my own body to shield my students if I need to. We have had to plan for the unimaginable while we hope beyond belief that we will never need to use that plan. I have practiced what to do in this scenario twice a year, every year with 5 and 6-year-olds. I have answered the questions the best I can; “Why are we practicing this?” “Why would we do this?” “Why would someone not safe be in our school” “Are they here now?” I can promise you every educator in this country knows this plan and the heartbreak that comes with it. We all have one and hope to never use one, but at some point, the plan isn't enough.
At some point, we need action that reaches far beyond teachers and classrooms and schools, because frankly, we have done so much to ensure the safety of our students, but it just isn't enough. We do not need more ways to fight off evil once it walks into a school, we need to work harder to ensure it doesn't have a chance to walk into schools in the first place. At some point, we need to hold the people we elect to help run our country and our government accountable to place the safety of all Americans, but in this case specifically children at the TOP of their priority list. No money or power can be more important than the basic human right of safety. Our children our are greatest asset and we need to protect them.
I want to stand at the door to my classroom and welcome students in, knowing that while we may need to work on sharing and reading and taking turns, they will be safe. I want to look their parents in the eye each morning and let them know that for the 7 hours the children that occupy their whole hearts are safe while they are in my care. I want them to know that while I am working my tail off to help their children learn and grow and become the best versions of themself, the safety of their children is never in question. I want so badly to give that peace of mind to the parents of the students I love so dearly. That is my hope. That is my dream. That is my fight.
As a teacher, I should be hoping that my students make the world a better place, that they change the world for the better. I should be hoping that they love each other and treat others the way they want to be treated. I should be hoping that they dream big and go off to fulfill their dreams. But before I can hope the big hopes for my students, I must first hope and pray that we are safe each day in the classrooms they occupy.
So I will continue to be loud (And if anyone can be loud, it’s me!) and make people hear that things need to change. We need to protect our children and our fellow humans. We need to find a way to ensure safety in our world. We need to do better.
So I ask you to vote. Vote now. Vote always. Make your voice heard. Let people know that the safety of our nation's children and all humans is a priority. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow.