It’s a headline that no person who works in public schools ever wants to hear or see.

It’s that “the gunshot was not an accident” part that really shocks me above being already shocked.

First grade. Not a high-schooler or college student. A six-year-old premeditatively brought a loaded gun to school, knew how it worked, and then targeted a teacher and shot her.

If you have ever shot a gun (pistol, revolver, rifle, or shotgun), then you know that the act of shooting requires a great understanding of physics and body control.

Where and how did this student acquire this gun? How did he know how to use it? Why did this student think that bringing a gun into a first-grade classroom was a justified action for whatever motive? Some of those questions can be answered with investigation, but some never will have a satisfactory answer.

If you are a teacher, then the experiences of multiple lives – their stresses, their anxieties, their fears, and their problems – all reside inside your classroom for a great deal of time. Students compare themselves to others, measure their self-worth in terms of comparison, and go home to sometimes vastly different circumstances where other lessons in life are taught from divergent “curricula” and ideologies.

How can you look at what happened in Newport News and not feel even more vulnerable as a teacher knowing that this was an act perpetrated by a first grader?

How can you as a teacher not feel a little less safe no matter what grade you teach when public schools in states like North Carolina are already being attacked on so many levels?

And how can you not see that our schools desperately need more social workers, guidance counselors, nurses, mental health professionals, and other support personnel?

The reasons why we as a society have become so desensitized to school shootings (until something so unimaginable startles briefly) are some of the same reasons that our schools are losing so many good teachers to other careers. To be in a space that is physically, mentally, and emotionally becoming harder to work while those in power seek to “scapegoat” schools for many of society’s ills can make the decision easy for many teachers to leave the profession. To think that so many states like North Carolina are actively taking more away from teachers in terms of recompense and respect can make those decisions to even enter the teaching professions easier to make.

And communities will suffer.





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Clarence Choe