This post will be interpreted as political and I don’t mind that, but it’s also really personal: I’m afraid.
I work at a university in North Carolina that’s near a military base. This means we have a large percentage of active military and veteran students. These are some of my favorite students–they bring real life experiences to the classroom and expose my traditional students to more than I ever could with just a textbook.
However, these students also often bring with them mental illness, PTSD, caused by war. They are uncomfortable and anxious in the civilian world, and they also often own guns, which they’ve been trained to use. I’ve never had any personal experience with a military student that frightened me: I want to make that clear. But there is a pattern of ex-military mass shooters, so I can’t help but make the connection.
After every mass shooting my level of fear rises. And this most recent shooting was partly targeted at the shooter’s writing class, which hit me hard.
I can’t keep a gun in my office, and I don’t want to, and the odds are even if I had one, I wouldn’t be able to protect myself.
But I’m scared. I teach nights. I’m a challenging teacher, and I’m a female teacher. I give honest feedback and we discuss controversial topics. This is what makes my classroom work, but it’s what scares me now.
I shouldn’t have to keep my office door shut. I shouldn’t feel the pressure of fear against my back when sitting at my desk. I shouldn’t have an exit strategy in place. But I do.
This is all to say: no I haven’t lost anyone I know to the mass shootings that happen all too frequently across our nation, but they are affecting me. I’m afraid at my job. When I should just be focused on teaching argumentative writing, I’m becoming apprehensive about allowing arguments in my classroom.
Again and again, we put semiautomatic weapons in the hands of the mentally ill. This has to change. It’s already touching me personally. How much closer does it have to touch our lives before we are ready for some changes?