Monday, February 26, 2018

10 Reasons Why Teachers Shouldn't Carry Guns In Schools

            As a teacher, I must weigh in on the gun debate gripping our nation. I believe in the Second Amendment to our Constitution. I agree that people should be able to protect themselves and their families from predators, however, I also believe we need to set limitations on the caliber of weapons that end up on our streets. 
            Like all Americans, teachers want children to be safe. Our profession demands it and we demand it of ourselves. Teachers spend hours training, collaborating, and soul-searching the best practices for student safety everyday. At my former school, we conducted fire drills, lock downs, and shelter in place drills every month. Prior to employment, every teacher must pass a Child Abuse Clearance, a Criminal Background Check, and an FBI Clearance. Every year, countless teachers must contact social services to remove students from abusive and neglectful homes.
            I do not believe that teachers should bear the responsibility of carrying guns to school. 
   Here's why:
 1.  Workload    

Teachers are already overworked.  Due to poor parenting, teachers bear a heavy burden disciplining students. (Discipline means to teach.) Not only do they have to instruct students on the basic subjects, many students have to be taught how to behave properly in public, how to use their manners, how to control their anger and aggression, and how to achieve basic human interaction.

2. Scrutiny
            Teachers are under a microscope. Everyone has an opinion on teachers. Politicians are constantly blaming teachers and teacher's unions for the state of education in our country. Placing guns in our hands would only make the pressure on us worse. 
           The public, the politicians MUST listen to what educators are saying. We haven't received smaller classroom sizes or more funding and the consequences have been devastating. If we say it's not a good idea to arm teachers with guns, people should listen.

3. Student Voice   
            Students all across the country are crying out for change. We must listen to them! If the passed two weeks are any indication, the students want gun reform, and that does not include teachers carrying guns to school.

4. Funding    
            Let's be real! How is the government going to fund a program to arm teachers? The cost would be astronomical. Many public schools already go without essential supplies like paper, textbooks, computers, and teachers. What else will need to be cut to achieve arming teachers? What will happen if politicians choose to raise taxes to fund this program?
            There are approximately 3.1 million teachers in the United States. President Trump has suggested arming the elite 10-20% of this population with guns. Let's break this down. It's about $400.00 for a low-end handgun, times that by roughly 700,000 educators, and you get $280,000,000.00--and that's without proper training.

5. Expectations
            Do we require bank tellers to protect a bank, in addition to their regular duties? Do we expect regular airport personnel to be armed for our safety?  No, we hire trained security guards to do this because it is a difficult and demanding job.

6.  Overpowering
            I hate to break it to you America, but there are many more Nicholas Cruz's sitting in our classrooms right now. What would happen if one of these students overpowered a teacher armed with a gun? It could easily happen. Remember, a teacher is alone, in the classroom, with at least 30 students, in some cases. A student like Nicholas Cruz would delight in knowing teachers were carrying weapons. It might be seen as a game or a challenge to disarm one of these teachers.

  7.  Teacher Error
            Teaching is a highly stressful job. So stressful in fact, that the life expectancy rate for teachers has dropped. What happens when a teacher, who has spent at least one school year in a volatile classroom without support, misinterprets a student's body language and shoots the way police officers have done over the years?

8. Disgruntled
            What if another educator, teaching under the same circumstances, is having a mental breakdown?

9. Mission Statement
               Teachers are public servants not body guards. Like doctors, a teacher's mission is to nurture and support. Drawing a gun, under chaos, and shooting a moving target accurately, is not in our nature, let alone our job description.

10. Other Options
            One of the most important lessons learned in school is to compromise. The politicians, the NRA, and the citizens of this country need to stop ripping each other apart and engage in meaningful dialogue that focuses on long-term solutions, not belittling a different point of view.

How do you feel about teachers carrying guns in schools?

Friday, February 16, 2018

Diary of a Kindergarten Teacher: 10th Entry

Wednesday, September 3
         It was the first official day of school for grades 1-8 today at Adams Elementary. I spent the first part of the morning helping students find their new class line in the schoolyard.
         After that, I spoke with Ramona Johnson's former Pre-K teacher, Miss Maureen. Miss Maureen confirmed that Ramona is challenging and so is her mother. Apparently, Ramona's mom can be argumentative. I've dealt with parents like that before. They can be difficult and scary sometimes. 
            I told Miss Maureen that since Ramona's mom didn't complete the Kindergarten transition meeting, I didn't have a copy of Ramona's Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
         In order to meet Ramona's educational and behavioral needs, it is essential that I have a copy of this document. Miss Maureen no longer had her copy of Ramona's IEP, so she couldn't provide me with one. She also told me that unfortunately she couldn't give me any advice on how to deal with Ramona's negative behaviors, because the strategies she used didn't work.     
            After that, I called Devon Wilson's old preschool. His former teacher was unavailable to speak with me. I was hoping to find out what anger management techniques she used to diffuse Devon's anger. I left a message for her to call me back.
            Following all of this, I conducted thirteen interviews. Five of my originally scheduled parents came, as well as eight brand new registrations which were done today. I wasn't told that these parents had arrived. They were simply told to go to my classroom and I would speak with them. It was overwhelming and exhausting.
            This puts me at 21 students total that I have met with. Once again, I called the four parents that didn't show today, inviting them to come tomorrow. I hope they show up.
        Tomorrow is the last day in the schedule to do parent interviews. Any additional interviews will have to be completed during my prep time or before and after school.
            It seems that I have a couple more students with IEPs for behavioral and educational needs. Those with educational needs are supposed to meet twice a week with our Special Education teacher, Mrs. Thomas. I know there are no additional personnel for behavior problems that arise on a daily basis, but it's comforting to know that the students' educational needs will be met.
            There is a program in the school called Student Support Services. They have a Shadow Program, where workers are assigned to a behaviorally challenged student for a portion of the school day. 
         The Student Support room is directly across from my classroom. This afternoon, I spoke with the supervisor, Mrs. Miller. She said that for students with behavior problems, I'd have to complete paperwork with anecdotes.
          Once I've accumulated enough data, I can submit it. Then it will be reviewed by their agency. If the students meet certain criteria, they will be assigned a Student Shadow. Mrs. Miller did say that it's difficult for kindergartners to get a Student Shadow. It can take months to have the paperwork reviewed. 
            In order to prepare for all of my students, I've made a list of children who require
educational support and behavioral support.
            Educational:      Ramona Johnson
                                       Rafael Cruz
                                      John Monroe
            Behavioral:     Ramona Johnson
                                    Rafael Cruz
                                    Devon Wilson
            In Pre-K, I used to make individualized baskets, for specific children to use, while I instructed the rest of the class. I would put paper, crayons, lace-up cards and other items that interested them in the baskets. I'm going to make one for Ramona and Rafael. I'm also going to introduce a Quiet Space for students to utilize when they're sad or angry. I also did this in Pre-K. I'll add pillows and a box filled with books, paper, and crayons.  
            Of course I'll do lessons on appropriate behavior and consistently follow the daily schedule. These techniques are also supposed to help with students misbehaving.
            These are the only strategies I've come up with so far.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Diary of a First Year Kindergarten Teacher: 9th Entry

Saturday, September 6
            I spent the night thinking of strategies to help the students in my class and the positives of my situation. Positives first:
1. I still have a job. When the district cut my position in June, I wasn't sure if I'd have a job in September. I spent the entire summer stressing about that. Now I can continue to pay for my son's college tuition and my daughter's high school tuition.
2. I have help in my classroom for an hour-and-a-half everyday. Many kindergarten teachers in the district don't have that.
3.  I'm able to teach kindergarten. I was very concerned that I'd end up in a higher grade. After teaching 2 - 4 year olds for my entire career, being thrown into a second or third grade class would have been difficult.
1. I know that Ramona Johnson had an IEP in Pre-K because the special needs coordinator told me. I am going to call Ramona's former teacher, and ask which behavioral and instructional strategies were used for her when she was in Pre-K. I am also going to do the same for Devon Wilson. Collaboration is key to help these children succeed.
2. I'm outlining my daily schedule and making an anchor chart with pictures for the children to read. Consistency is important for children.
3. I'll incorporate lots of music and movement into the schedule. That should help relieve the stress and anger of the students.
            That's all I have for now.  I think I'm off to a good start.   

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Guest Post: Author Iris Sweetwater

Turning Complex Emotions Into Words: My First Story
Hello everyone! I hope this post finds you well. Before I get into the story of my first story, I want to just tell you briefly who I am. I am the author Iris Sweetwater. Though I have been writing professionally and for pleasure for over 20 years, I began my Indie Author journey at the very end of 2016. My first series is a PNR about werewolves and witches, the very last of which will be out on February 2nd. You are going to see so much from me in 2018, including a ton of fantasy anthologies. I hope to see you around and get to know all my readers, whether you just found me or have been with me from the beginning.
So, I have to start out by saying my childhood was not easy or typical. I was gifted, to say the least. Potty trained by 15 months, reading and writing by age two, these are not normal things, which I did not know until I got into kindergarten around other children. Faced with family issues at home and the fact that I did not seem like my peers, I felt out of place, depressed, strange, and vulnerable. Part of the curse of being intelligent is having emotional intelligence; you understand the way others around you feel about you and the societal and emotional implications way sooner than you can possibly handle this information.
No, this is not a pity party by any means, but it is about how I found writing as it is to me today. You see, I needed an outlet. I was bored and lonely, struggling to find my place when home didn't feel like home and friends felt more like aliens I didn't understand. I began making up stories, and especially poems. Poems are where I found my way to express my feelings and use my intellect.
The first poem I can remember writing was called Sad Monster. I remember it so vividly because I always find it in my things, look back, and cry, seeing how it describes how I have always felt, even though I was only 5 when I wrote it. In immature handwriting and 3/4 of a page, I use the sad monster, a real living being, who people are afraid of, who doesn't fit in, as a comparison to how I felt, never fitting in.
The sad monster knows how others see him; as a monster, scary, stay away from him, but he is lonely and sad, just wanting to fit in.
As writers, now that I know so many, I can say many of us were that sad monster, and that is how I know the author community is the right place for me. I have never felt so strongly that I belong somewhere, and I can't believe how life keeps coming back to a poem I wrote before I even went to school for a whole day!