As A Teacher, This Is What I Realized After Completing Active Shooter Training

by Kristen Thiele
Originally Published: 
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I went into the field of education strictly because I love kids, and the joy of helping them learn new things is unmatched.

Once a student walks through my classroom door, they’re forever my kid. I don’t take the relationships we foster for granted; I cherish them. I love each one (even if they’re a “needs a call home” every other day kiddo. Maybe they just need a little more love).

I’m often called “Mom,” and it’s a responsibility I take very seriously, especially since I have children of my own.

Here’s the thing: I’m a teacher, a mentor, hell, even a second mom to some. I’m not a soldier getting combat pay to go to work each day. I shouldn’t be, but am, also on the frontlines.

As I was pelted with soft plastic Nerf bullets in four separate classroom shooting simulations, I really started to think about the risky situation I’m putting myself (and my family) in each day.

Scenario one involved a sudden attack; no warning or time to fight back. We were essentially sitting ducks.

The second time the “shooter” (one of our security guards) entered the classroom, we had knowledge of an active shooter and were hiding. Many of us, including me, were still shot.

During the third scenario, we were instructed to barricade the door. My group attempted to do so with lab tables, a sideways chair between the door handle, and a belt around the hinges atop the door. We failed. Our barricade only held the shooter back for, maybe, a minute.

Scenario four meant fighting back. A few men decided to lunge at the “shooter” as he attempted to enter. It worked.

Here’s the problem: I’m not prepared to lunge at an armed intruder. I’m not a soldier or police officer. We as teachers were given a 3-hour training session (part of which was a PowerPoint presentation) and that is not enough to make me feel secure in my ability to get into that mindset.

If you’re the parent of any one of my students somehow reading this, please know, I would step in front of your child if it came down to me or them. It would mean my daughter, who is at the tender age of 3, growing up without her mother, my young stepdaughter missing a maternal figure whom she relies on, and of course my husband losing his wife. Still, if it were my child, I’d want her teacher to do the same.

When did our teachers become part of the fold who goes to work each day, unsure as to whether they’ll make it home?

Columbine happened when I was in junior high school, and obviously mass shootings, including those in schools, have continued ever since.

How is this still happening?

Why are people ignoring the warning signs?

Why am I risking my life every day rather than making sure my students can read, write, and speak articulately?

I shouldn’t be. No teacher should. Yet, here we are.

My husband, who is currently sitting next to me as I write this, glances over saying, “You better not” when he sees me type that I’d risk my life to save a child.

He’s entitled to his opinion, and obviously his goal would be for no one to be hurt. Selfishly, as his wife and mother of his daughter, he puts me ahead of the youngsters I’m in charge of (scratch that, entrusted with).

The conversation about violence, toxic masculinity, and other factors — along with the multiple ways in which we’re failing those in need of care — needs to start now.

As someone who lost two loved ones to gun violence (one of which was self inflicted), I can tell you with absolutely certainty that guns are not the only problem.

When someone is determined to cause harm to themselves or others, they will. Find. A. Way.

Let’s start saving lives and teaching our children they are safe at school.

It needs to be a group effort, folks.

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