I’m teaching two classes this quarter. One meets in the morning, the other meets in the afternoon. They meet in the same building in adjacent classrooms.
My classrooms are fairly typical. They are both rectangular rooms with rows of desks running perpendicularly to the door. In other words, we enter through what would be called a “side door,” which leaves an uninterrupted space for the white board and projector screen at the front of the room.
Here’s the difference: in one of my classrooms you enter toward the back of the class, and in the other you enter near the front board. If a student comes in late to my morning class, she will glimpse the engaged faces of her classmates. If a student comes in late to my afternoon class, he will be viewing their backs.
There’s a similarity here, however: when a gunman comes into either classroom, if he stands at the door and begins to shoot, we’re all trapped. If he shoots his way into my morning classroom, I’ll probably be the first to die. If he shoots his way into my afternoon classroom, I’ll probably have to watch students die before he gets to me.
They didn’t teach us how to deal with these situations in grad school. What little we were taught about pedagogy had to do with learning outcomes, not defensive strategies. How silly is that?
I had to view an online workshop last year about what to do when someone comes into your classroom with a gun. It was very much like the sexual harassment workshops we all have to sit through every two years. Similarities? At the end of my first sexual harassment workshop, I found myself wondering, “ARE YOU KIDDING?” At the end of my first active shooter workshop, I found myself wondering, “ARE YOU KIDDING?”
Oops. Sorry. That last paragraph was dangerously close to a rant. As a writing instructor, I spend a lot of time instructing my students not to rant. They learn to rant on Reddit, and with any luck they learn to unrant in my classroom.
I’m no psychologist, but it seems within reason to posit that walking into a classroom brandishing multiple firearms is the extreme form of a rant. While there may not be any way to defend against a student with weapons drawn, it may be that my best defense is to teach these kids not to rant rant in the first place.
Journal of Natural Hist. Ed.
Natural History Institute
Center for Humans & Nature