As a teacher in the Portland Public Schools, I would like to weigh in on Gov. LePage’s endorsement of our president’s suggestion to arm teachers.

First of all, would this be effective? I am convinced by the logic of the argument made by Robert Schwartz of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association that it would create “utter chaos.”

More importantly, how does running schools as “hardened targets” impact student learning? Teachers providing armed vigilance cannot possibly be doing their work with the same focus and care. Maintaining vigilance also has a negative impact on learning. Neurologists and teachers know how little students can learn when they are afraid.

Knowing this, we teachers invest hours into building safe, welcoming communities for learning. The heart of teaching is the exhausting work of “being the change you want to see in the world.” Even when the world is violent, unfair and irrational, it is our job to build an environment that is safe, respectful and just. It is hard work: done with conversation, case studies, literature, and problems to solve, not with guns.

Reducing school shootings is also about creating communities rich with connection and empathy: schools where every child is known and the brooding silence of social isolation gets interrupted by the occasional check-in, the offer of support, or the bustle of meaningful work. This is how we teachers can and do contribute to safety in schools.

What will school post-Parkland look like? Better armed with weapons or better armed to think rationally and problem-solve? Better able to identify socially isolated kids to the police, or better able to integrate them into the community? Let’s outfit schools for raising the generation that will be tasked with rebuilding our civil discourse and rejecting our divisive, often violent, rhetoric.

Caroline Robinson


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