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Dirty Harry in The Classroom

Dirty Harry in The Classroom
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BY BETH PORTOLESE

Over the past few days, I have listened to our president discuss his solutions to the school shooting problem. The solution he has talked about the most: arming teachers. Ahh, really? That is what you have come up with to solve this hugely complicated problem? The solution to the gun problem is to give more people guns? Will they be ‘Trump Guns?’ Don’t our teachers have enough to do? Isn’t it hard enough to just teach?

I don’t know about you but when I look back on all the teachers I had in grade school, the thought of any of them ‘packing a piece’ makes me shudder. I went to a Catholic school called Sacred Heart. Back then, most of the teachers I had were nuns who were still wearing the black and white full habits, all the better to conceal a weapon under if you think about it. A few of the nuns were so old that my parents had had them in grade school. The one that comes to mind the most was Sister Loretta. My father told me that when he had her, it seemed like she was about 80, so god only knows how old she was when I had her in third grade. What that woman could do with a ruler as a disciplinary tool was amazing. I can only imagine how she would have made us behave if she had had a loaded handgun in her desk. Her vision was a little off so there might have been some collateral damage if she had had to shoot to defend us from a gunman, but I’m sure she would have gotten him eventually.

Then there was Sister Gemma, a no nonsense nun who taught us history. Sister Gemma was extremely close to another nun for the 2 or 3 years that they were stationed in my town together. She was a fairly good teacher until the news came out that she was going to be transferred to a different town. After that, she mostly just cried in class and stopped teaching. Every day when we came into her class she told us to read 300 pages in our textbook. That was it. I look back and realize that I didn’t really learn much that year. If a gunman had burst into her classroom, he wouldn’t have had a chance because of the foul mood she was in for 6 months. Sister Eugenia was a nun that should never have taught or been anywhere near kids. She spent all of class screaming at us and then crying intermittently. Perhaps 40 years before she had been a good teacher but those days were long gone by the time I had her. She screamed so loud that I spent all of class with my fingers in my ears trying to block the sound. She would not have been one of those ‘certain teachers (highly adept people)’ chosen to be armed. Lastly there was Sister Alice, our principal. Sister Alice did not take any crap. She would come to the classroom and wrap on the door with the gold wedding ring they all wore (explanation: they were wed to the lord). The teacher would go to the door and Sister Alice would say in a very low voice what child she wanted to talk with. You did not want to be that child! Sister Alice probably could have disarmed an intruder with just her stare, but putting a gun in her hands would have made her even scarier. When we asked her why she became a nun, she told us that one night when she was lying in bed she got ‘the calling.’ She told us that once that happened, she wasn’t successful at anything else until she joined the nunnery. For weeks after that I was afraid to lie in bed at night in case a similar ‘calling’ happened to me.

Please understand that I don’t think anything about school shootings is humorous. What I can’t get my head around are some of the answers to it from our politicians. I have many friends and some relatives that work in schools and I know for a fact that when they went to school to be a teacher or counselor, they did not sign up for the responsibility of keeping their students safe from gunfire. Just like the nuns who taught me would not have signed up for it and, considering their age and personal issues, could not have done it. We need to figure this thing out and to me, it involves less people carrying guns, not more. We have to have better ideas than this, don’t we? The answers are not simplistic (i.e. good teacher with a gun) but require a many-layered response from both sides of the aisle. Will this ever happen? We can only pray.

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