By Bill Eudaly
America is still reeling from the recent shooting in Sandy Hook, CT, that killed 20 students and six educators. One can only imagine how their families continue to cope with their loss, or how the rest of us make it every day after such a watershed event. Some suggest more prayer, while others say more gun control. Whatever it is, lord, give us more of it-we sure need it.
One suggestion is to arm educators. To some, this is not as absurd as it seems. After all, teachers are already on the front lines in facing overcrowded classrooms, gang violence, and now armed intruders. Loaded guns might seem a helpful solution to the problem. However, it could also increase violence if their weapons fall into the wrong hands. One shudders to think about the first time a teacher’s stolen gun is used to kill a child. I would not want to be the official who had to explain the death to the child’s parents.
As a matter of fact, teachers are already armed. They are armed with optimism, compassion, and love. They are also armed with knowledge of their subjects, and they persevere in spite of lack of support, shrinking resources, and strident demands for improved test scores. Some even have extra ammo: they coach, mentor, and counsel. Many impart wisdom, which they bring to the classroom every day. And they bring courage-not only to face the already difficult job they have, but to face potential mass shooters.
I was relieved, but not surprised, to see how a California teacher, Ryan Heber, handled a recent potential tragedy. A troubled student entered his school with a shotgun. Mr. Heber talked him out of it, and undoubtedly saved lives. This incident made the news, but such occurrences are not uncommon in America’s schools. Less often reported are the hundreds of incidents each week in which teachers, counselors, and administrators rescue students from drug abuse, violence, and suicide. They don’t talk about it much so the public rarely sees how often it happens. But happen it does, and for educators it is taken in stride. Sadly, it goes with the territory.
In the past few years it has become common to thank military personnel for their service. This is as it should be. If I learn that a man or woman has worn the uniform, I let them know I appreciate it. They are usually modest, because that is the kind of people they are. I hope, however, that in a very small way it helps to acknowledge the real toll that serving in combat takes.
There are many ways to honor those killed in the latest school shooting. Some will join the debate about guns; others will donate to a charity. All should love and appreciate children more. Another way might be to thank an educator for their service. Again, it’s a small gesture, but one which will be meaningful. It might just make their job a little easier and give them more ammunition to face whatever challenge they face that day. And it might also add a small measure to the endless fortitude they need to do the job they are asked to do.
Editor’s note: Bill Eudaly retired from Duluth (GA) High School where he was Teacher of the Year a few years ago. He is also a professional actor and he worked on many of the musical theatre and children's theatre productions at Duluth High School.