I Won't Save Your Kid

by Rachael Flanery
Originally Published: 
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I love my job. It’s a career. A passion. A calling. I’m proud to be a public school teacher and carry the weight of your child’s future with me every day.

It’s an awesome responsibility, being the person your kid sees almost as much as you. After “Mom,” “Mrs. Flanery” is a close second and the lady who is either making your kid’s day or ruining it. Building your kid up or taking them down. Causing joy or pain. I always choose joy, even if your kid doesn’t think so.

I don’t agree with many of the policies in my district. I don’t vibe with some teachers in my building, but I can say with 100% certainty anyone who makes it teaching more than a year loves your children. They love what they do and they work very very hard.

I skip my lunch to make copies, check in with a parent, mediate fourth grade girl drama (the worst), help with homework, find a homeless kid gloves, figure out who’s on what bus. Sometimes I don’t go pee until 2 p.m. Sometimes I have to call and ask an adult to watch my class so I can go potty. Are there a lot of other professions where someone with two graduate degrees needs to ask permission to go to the bathroom?

I’m a hugger. I will hug your kid if they have lice or ringworm. I won’t pull my hand away from a sweaty snotty grasp. I will squeeze reassuringly. If your kid has an accident I won’t call my union, I will slap on some gloves and clean them up making sure they aren’t embarrassed and that they feel okay returning to the classroom in the clothes I find for them.

I’ll start every phone call home with a positive. Every child has positives. I will fiercely advocate for your child sacrificing happy hour invites or chit-chat in the lounge. Your child’s inclusion is more important than my popularity.

You will get my cell phone number. I’ll respond to your texts on a Saturday. I check my email at 9 p.m. If you are struggling, I will buy your family Christmas presents. I have bought GreyHound tickets and paid for countless field trips out of my own pocket.

I’ve made home visits and hospital visits. Joined birthday parties and walked children home. Sometimes I have a loose concept of boundaries, but I wholeheartedly believe that it takes a village and I am honored to be a part of yours.

Public school is one of the last true democratic systems in our country. In theory, every kid will get what they need. On paper, every person gets the same start to send them off into adulthood. School is where we send our children everyday. We rush them out the door to the place where they will line up for recess, learn their times tables, and navigate social minefields with the help of trusted adults.

With every school shooting, it is becoming less of a fluke and horrific tragedy and more of the norm and reality of going to school.

When I moved into my classroom, the first thing on my mind is where we would hide from a shooter. I’m lucky. Being a special ed teacher, I don’t have a traditional space. My room is tucked away at the end of the hall. Being an old conference room space, it doesn’t have the regular doors but two large metal doors. Attached to my room and behind another locked sturdy door is a laundry room and supply closet.

During the first code red drill, I told my kiddos the real plan would be locking ourselves in there. We would be extra safe. I’m on the “penthouse,” which also gives us an advantage. Sure, we have more real estate to cover to escape, but chances are shooting would happen on the first few floors first, right? We would have time to lock ourselves in the supply closet. I should be clearing a space to fit the wheelchairs.

Now here’s the bad news. Here’s where maybe I expose myself as a terrible person. But here is the truth. I am in that supply closet whether your kid is with me or not. I will not run towards the sound of gun shots. I will not use my body as a shield or hold the door open to hustle in the kids trapped in the hallway.

People who know me might say “No. Of course you will.” I really hope I wouldn’t.

I love your children, but I love mine more. I am a teacher, but more importantly I am someone’s wife, daughter, sister, and mother.

I never went into this career with the idea of sacrificing my own safety. If I was that selfless of a person I would be a cop, fire fighter, or soldier. I’m a selfish person.

When I go to work in the morning, I plan to come home in the evening and I will do all I can to make sure that happens.

I’m so sorry, but I won’t save your kid.

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