August 16, 2018
When, in the wake of the Parkland Florida shooting, I heard the Toddler in the White House advocating that teachers in schools should be armed, I immediately thought of Miss Jenkins.
Miss Jenkins was my third grade teacher, a beautiful redhead, a part-time model and a cheerleader for the Montreal Alouettes, eventually marrying one of the players. What she was not, was a teacher. She did not like children, had a short temper and had no ability to motivate us. When we acted as eight-year-olds do, she would scream and toss blackboard brushes and pieces of chalk at us. Usually we dodged the missiles. Imagine what she could have done with an assault rifle! Most of us would not have made fourth grade.
Fast forward to my high school, which had the highest rate of juvenile delinquency (as it was called then before social workers and psychologists got involved) in the province of Québec. We had a drug raid in the school in 1958, with the task force looking for what were called ‘goofballs’. You put one in a bottle of Coke and got high, apparently. The head of the student council had Mafia connections.
One of the physics teachers was a World War Two veteran who had been seriously wounded and had a steel plate in his head. During physics class labs, a considerable number of the boys would spend their entire time trying to get close enough to the teacher to place a magnet on his head. When they succeeded, he would cry out in agony. No one would have denied that teacher the right to reach for an gun. As a veteran, he knew how to use weapons and he probably could have claimed self-defence.
Despite the violence of my schooling, I became a substitute teacher to earn extra money during my university years. What I would have given for an assault rifle then! I would arrive in a classroom where thirty students were already celebrating the fact that their teacher was off sick, to find that the invalid teacher was three weeks behind in her lesson plans and there were thirty different opinions on where exactly the class was in their reading/maths/geography /history/whatever lessons. Today, I attribute my hearing loss to the level of noise I endured trying to establish order.
Of course, this was not teaching but crowd control. I would have welcomed a riot shield, a billy club, Mace or a water cannon to help me get through the day. Usually, taking out the lead bullies would tone things down a bit and I carried a supply of puzzles, fun quizzes and rock music to engage the students while I wished every imaginable, incurable disease on the ailing teacher. Packing heat would have helped.
I realize this was not what President Trump or the state of Florida had in mind when they advocated arming teachers. The threat of psychopathic school shooters is real and seems to be growing in the US. But teachers are human beings, too, often highly stressed human beings. And schools have moved beyond goofballs and blackboard brushes.
If teachers were armed, wouldn’t those known to have weapons be the first that a school shooter would take out? Would teachers pack pistols on their hips, where they could be tackled, disarmed and shot by a deranged, testosterone-fueled teenager in their class who only got a D in civics? Or would they have their weapons locked away where they would have to remember where they put the key, get it, open the desk and get the gun while the school shooter fired off 1500 rounds of ammunition? And all for a salary less than a police officer or a fire fighter.
No, let’s focus on the enraged shooters, their access to military type weapons and the sick society that breeds them. Leave the teachers to take their Valium, grumble over bad coffee in the staff room and look forward longingly to July and August.