We shared Liz's letter to us in this week's episode and several of you asked us to post it here so Liz's powerful words can be shared far and wide.
In the aftermath of the school shooting in Florida, I have observed a particular narrative that has really gotten under my skin as a teacher. The murdered children are victims, but the dead teachers are heroes. They took a bullet for their kids. I don’t in any way wish to minimize anyone’s deaths, nor do I wish to criticize these moving tributes but it’s time someone told the truth about this heroic narrative. Teachers being murdered in schools by armed terrorists while protecting their students is not heroism. It is a horror.
We revere police officers and our military because they affirmatively chose that life that most of us do not have the courage to do. Their job is emotionally draining and takes a psychological toll because of the risk to their lives that their jobs pose. Their marriages are tested and their families live with the stress that they may not come home at the end of the day. It takes a special kind of person to be willing to sacrifice themselves to protect the innocent. Every community needs warriors and protectors, and I am incredibly grateful to those people who serve us in those roles.
I am not that person. I am not a police officer. I did not enlist in the military. I am a teacher. I did not choose a career where I am asked to sacrifice myself to protect the innocent. I chose to teach because I love children, I love learning, and I love the school environment. I chose a career that allowed me to balance my family and my job. I am not a warrior. I am an educator, a nurturer and carer.
Ever since the Columbine shooting, every time I enter a classroom, I assess where and how I would hide the children. I consider the fastest way to evacuate. Sometimes I look out at the faces of the children I teach and I see the children of Sandy Hook. This has taken a toll on me, as I regularly experience fight or flight. I regularly consider the possibility of being murdered or witnessing the murder of children while on the job and I did not in any way ask for this when I became a teacher.
I am a teacher, not a warrior.
I’m going to be totally honest and real here. I do not want to take a bullet for anyone except my own family. I don’t want to die at my job. I am not a hero and have no desire to be one. And I don’t think I should be expected to do so. I just want to go to school and be a kind adult in the lives of children and then go home to my own children and husband. My elected officials should protect me and decide that being a human shield to protect children against armed men is not what we want for teachers, children, or our communities.
So let me be clear: if I die in a school shooting, I am not a hero. I AM A VICTIM. I am a victim of greed and lies and inaction. Do not lionize me or any actions that I took in service of protecting the children in my care. I did not willingly take a bullet for my students but because I had no other choice and because I was failed by powerful people who could have saved my life and the lives of the kids in my classroom. If I die in a school shooting protecting the children in my classroom, I have done it unwillingly and at the hands of others. I love children and love teaching but I don’t want to die on the job. I desperately want to come home to my family every day. I did not choose this.
Murdered teachers do not willingly sacrifice their lives and let’s stop acting like they do because it makes us feel marginally better to have heroes among the horror.