From a young age, I dreamt of becoming an educator. I dreamt of making a difference in children’s lives. I watched my teachers, the majority of who were women, showcase strength in their careers. I watched them balance families, low salaries, crazy parents, stubborn students, and their classrooms. I idolized their tenacity. It was captivating to see a building full of women run the show. I wanted to be a part of it.
As an adult, I made my dream come true. I am a 4th-grade teacher. I love my classroom and my students, but the horrible reality of this career has become all too transparent.
Teaching is a female-driven career path. We are labeled as “glorified babysitters.” Not worthy of maternity leave, equal pay, classroom supplies, or even respect for that matter. And now, a crisis in America has wreaked hell on the job that is considered to be “all rainbows and butterflies.”
On Tuesday, May 24th, 2022, 21 people were killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. 19 of them were children and two of them were female teachers. As a Texas resident and educator, it is an understatement to say that this hits close to home. I know what you are thinking; “My prayers go out to them” or “My thoughts are with them, how heartbreaking.” But words cannot suffice in a situation like this. Thoughts and prayers are useless. What we need is change. As a country, we often ask the “why” behind things like this. In these cases the “why” is irrelevant. What we, as a country, should be asking is “what.” What are we going to do about it? A killer walked into a school filled with women and children and opened fire. But wait, here is the kicker… this has happened 948 times since Sandy Hook. Let that number sink in.
As children, we practiced bad weather and fire drills. We only worried about if we could bring our Polly Pocket to school or if our Crocs matched our outfit. As a teacher in 2021/2022, I watch my students practice lockdown drill after lockdown drill. When the first beeping noises echo through our classroom, I always catch glimpses of terror from several little eyes all looking at me. The dreaded question is always asked, “Is this real or just a drill?” Those little voices will forever ring in my head. I try to ease their fears, but it’s still my responsibility to prepare them for danger. It isn’t the “stranger danger” talk we had as kids. It is the “If someone comes in the building and tries to shoot us, this is our plan” kind of talk.
As a teacher, I have also spent 4 hours of professional development in a school shooting simulation with the local police department. They came into our school with Nerf guns and shot at us as we ran and hid. I remember running amongst the foam bullets, heart pounding, thinking to myself how dehumanizing and embarrassing this training was. I felt like a pig in a lineup at the slaughterhouse. They were essentially training us to die. For weeks after I had nightmares. Nightmares that I was running, but this time from real bullets and I had 23 little bodies in tow. Nothing prepares you for the burden of protecting 23 little humans with your whole heart.
In retrospect, this training was like putting a tiny bandaid on a huge open wound that probably needed stitches to begin with. I’m sure it’s the same feeling I’ll have when I see the 949th school shooting or maybe the 950th or 951st. On the track we are on, we will only see the numbers continue to climb.
This is not just an attack on schools. This is an attack on a female-dominated career that is not only undervalued but underpaid. We are not weak for choosing this career path as many might assume. We are, in fact, the most strong-minded and strong-hearted people to walk this Earth. And yet we are targeted, silenced, laughed at, yelled at, and, in 948 unfortunate cases, shot at.
While lawmakers refuse to make any changes to gun control legislation, many States are restricting abortion laws and considering the possible overturn of Roe vs. Wade. It’s unfathomable that a country cares more about restricting women’s health and preventing abortions than they care about the living and breathing children in their schools. They seem to “protect” and “guard” women’s uteruses but not the schools in which their kids spend the majority of their days. Each day 10,267 children are born in the United States. Within that same day, 12 children in the United States die from gun violence. Yet, if you ask the politicians, unless that child is an unborn fetus, the responsibility has nothing to do with them. As a young woman, this backward agenda is appalling, disgusting, heartbreaking, and discouraging.
I wake up every day to see another wrongdoing by the government toward women. I see old men making decisions for women’s bodies. I see a cycle of no change being made in the right direction when it comes to preserving the jobs of women in education. Nor have I seen any ounce of change regarding the protection of children in our schools.
And so now as I write this I have the feminine urge to right the wrongs. We are the change that is coming. In our world, we have so many odds stacked against us right now. We need to stick together through these hard times and fight because we deserve more.
If you’re feeling that same urge to right the wrongs of our country, we’ve compiled a list of organizations that are dedicated to taking direct action in order to finally end gun violence.
Sandy Hook Promise is a nonprofit foundation led by several family members whose loved ones were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. They educate students on the warning signs of gun violence in an effort to end school shootings.
Everytown is a grassroots organization dedicated to the fight for public safety measures that will protect people from gun violence. They’ve put together a list of various actions that anyone can participate in to help raise awareness and work to pass common-sense laws.
March for Our Lives is a youth-led movement created by victims of the Parkland shooting dedicated to taking direct action in order to end the epidemic of gun violence.