Brave and Bold

Posted on: 17 December, 12

Many years ago, I had a gun pointed at my face.  The bank robber said, "Get f*ck out my way."  I did just that.  I got out of his way so fast.  It was all over in a matter of seconds.  In and out, guns blazing, money taken, but no one was hurt.  I had no concern for my employer's deposit of several thousand dollars that I was in the middle of depositing when the gun was shoved in my face.  (The teller had already completed the transactions, so it was all good in that respect.)  The only thought that ran through my mind was, "Thank goodness my children are not with me right now."  

When people found out what happened, there wwere lots of "thank goodness you are okay," but that was quickly followed by "Well, if anyone ever pointed a gun at me, I would….."  Everyone had an opinion on how they would have handled the situation… better, more bravely, more boldly.  When the gunman told me to get out of the way, I quickly exited the bank, but hid in behind the bushes to get a description of the getaway car and note in what direction they fled.  No, I did not take the down the gunman with a kick to the groin, but I did give the police information that was helpful and I did not get myself shot.  I call that a pretty good day.  

As the stories come out of Newton, CT of what those brave and bold teachers did, I do not second guess their actions.  Their actions were indeed brave and bold.  Instead, I question, "What would I do?"  If a shooter was terrorizing my school, what would I do?  Would I stay calm and ease my students fears?  Would I take a bullet for my students?  

The school has lockdown drills.  I know the mechanics of locking the doors and moving the students to a closet or storage room, if possible.  We have actual lockdowns.  Thankfully, those usually involve an escaped criminal hiding out in the woods behind the school or a small (unarmed) fight on campus.  A couple years ago, a student "accidentally" discharged a gun as he was exiting the school bus to come into school.  The alarm sounded right before the first bell of the morning.  I knew this was not a typical lockdown.  I was in the counseling office with a handful of students, most of whom were Burmese refugees, brand new to our school.  Welcome to America!  I did my best to explain what was going on as we sat in the dark, listening for approaching footsteps and possibly gunfire.  At that point, we had no clue as to what was going on outside that wooden door.  I admit, my thoughts wandered to where my own children were.  Had they made it to class yet?  Were they safe in that part of campus?  Was any part of the campus safe?  I whispered reassurances to the students with me.  I don't know how much they understood.  I watched them carefully for signs of anxiety or panic.  There wasn't much else to be done as we sat and hoped for silence in the halls.  Finally we received word that we could turn on the lights, but everyone had to remain in place while security and the police made sure the buildings were secure.  I reassured the students that we do this to be safe, to be certain that they are protected from harm.  They shared bits of their life before coming to America, some good and some bad.  

I did what I was suppose to do.  I locked the door, turned off the lights, and kept the students and quiet and calm.  Every time I sub, I always assess the room for a potential lockdown.  Is there a closet or storage room large enough to hold all of the students?  Where is the emergency folder?  Where are the keys to the lock the door?  Do I have an accurate accounting of students in the room?  I know the mechanics.  Had that student been able to get that gun from the bus to the hallways, would I have been as brave and bold as those teachers in Newton?    

It saddens me that we live in a society where lockdown procedures are part of my morning routine.  It saddens me that students are all to familiar with lockdown drills and actual lockdowns.  When new teachers are being interviewed, do principals need to ask the question, "Would you take a bullet for your students?"  Would I take a bullet for my students?  I would like to be confident and say, "yes, of course I would!"  Until you are looking down the barrel of a gun, you just don't know.


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