Confession from a Former Teacher

Being a former high school teacher, my three years of experience does not compare to the time that my colleagues, teacher friends and family, even my parents, have invested. However, in my three years, my school went into “lock-down mode” quite a few times to keep our students safe when someone had escaped from a nearby mental health hospital, or when police activity was high in the nearby neighborhoods.

 The thing about lock-down mode is that we (the teachers in the classrooms) never knew what was going on until after the lock-down had been lifted. Being the only adult in a classroom full of teenagers during lock-down is terrifying. Every. Single. Time. (The “what-ifs” running through my mind, plus my classroom was the first accessible one off the main courtyard.) But that terror must never show, because they look to you when they’re afraid.

Now that I’m no longer in the classroom and I hear stories about school shootings, emotions that I have suppressed from my teaching days arise. The Parkland Shooting has hit me particularly hard, and I think it’s because of the “solutions” that some have “suggested” as of late. Instead of non-teachers talking about placing weapons in the hands of teachers, why are teachers not added to the conversations?


 In my personal opinion:
I’m a teacher; not an attacker.
I protect others with my own life; I don’t take others’ lives.
And as most school shooters were former students, don’t demand that I kill a child whom I have watched grow up, even if I knew they were troubled or a trouble-maker.
I would never condone their actions. But don’t you dare require me to be judge, jury and executioner all in the blink of an eye.
That is the job of a professional law enforcer. Not mine.


 In the heat of last week’s events and the resulting aftermath, I wrote a poem (not my usual genre of writing). I hesitated to share because it’s both confession and passion. But I write to connect, and so I hope I’ve connected with you today.


 Slainté! (with water, of course)


For Them
A Poem by a Former Teacher


I remember the days
When I would be called in a formal way.
And I arrived each morning with the rays shining through the haze
And a bright smile on my face,
For them.


Although I cannot tell a lie,
Not every day was a slice of pie.
No where did my contract say: “I agree to give my life away.”
And sometimes you just have one of those days
Where you don’t want to give your life away
For them.


But each time I heard “please excuse the interruption: we are going into lock-down mode.”
I’d no longer question: Could I? Would I? I’d just know.
Today may be the day
That I will give my life away
For them.


You may think that it’s a given.
That this is human intuition.
But why must I be the sacrificial lamb
For something that could no way be God’s plan.
Not for me and not
For them.


You may think that you decide
How I should live my life or
How I should die.
But instead of making me choose,
How about you actually pay your dues
And pass a bill to protect our schools
From those tools used by
Those fools
Who think it’s cool to shoot up a school.
If not for me, do it
For them.


Because I remember those good days
And the rays shining through the haze
And the bright smile on my face for them.
I always did it
For them.

Ms. Swisher


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