Sometimes, in This Era of Nonstop School Shootings, I Wonder Why I Became a Teacher at All

"Nearly 30 pronounced dead on the campus of Virginia Tech," I hear on the radio as I quickly change the station to search for the Top Hits channel. I was a seventh grader in America when 32 people were murdered on the Blacksburg, Virginia, campus. Another mass school shooting in the United States? Nothing out of the ordinary. I finally found the radio station I wanted, and a T-Pain song blasted through the speakers.

My educational experience and my relationship with mass school shootings in America began the year I started kindergarten, in 1999. It was the year that Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, made headlines around the world. Little did my 5-year-old self know that this was only the beginning, and I would be exposed to mass school shootings for the rest of my life. From then until now, 150 more students (and counting) have been murdered in their elementary school classrooms, high school hallways, and college campuses across the country. My generation has never known the "before." We've never known school without school shootings. Every chapter of our childhoods—from kindergarten to college—coincides with a tragedy that took place at a school. And that's a horrifying fact.

Now, as a second-grade teacher in New York City, I'm on the other side of the classroom. When I decided to leave my desk job a few years ago to become an educator, I'll be honest, I didn't really stop to think about what I was really signing up for. I was inspired to become a teacher by my mother, who dedicated her life to teaching for nearly 20 years. For as long as I can remember, I've seen education through a teacher's lens, learning that the classroom is a space where students should feel comfortable, protected, and inspired to become who they are, with the help of selfless, warm, and encouraging teachers like my mother. At least that's what I thought. I didn't stop to think about what becoming a teacher in America really meant.


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