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Dec 15 2012

Thank you, teachers

Victoria Soto, age 27, apparently died yesterday while trying to get her students into a safer spot in their classroom at Sandy Hook. She stood between the murderer and her students, and he killed her.

This is Soto right here.

[Updated to add: Andrew Revkin shares more on Soto's colleagues Kaitlin Roig  and Maryrose Kristopik: "Kaitlin Roig locked her students in the bathroom and kept them safe, while Victoria Soto was trying to do the same when she came face-to-face with the gunman and was shot, execution style. Maryrose Kristopik barricaded her music students in a closet, while the gun man fought to get in." Roig and Kristopik survived, thankfully.]

I spent a little time thinking about Soto and her colleagues this morning. I’ve known quite a few grade school teachers over the years. Until 2009, I was married to one. And I realized as I was thinking about Soto that there’s not a single one of those grade school teachers I’ve known, my ex- emphatically included, who I could imagine doing anything but jumping between the gunman and his or her students.

I know that’s an argument from incredulity. I know teachers are human beings, and human beings freeze up when they’re frightened. But I’ve also seen the sacrifices grade school teachers make on days the media don’t notice. Over and over, day in and day out, with no hope of any relief outside of leaving the job.

And for this they get to be one of the most denigrated groups of professionals in the United States, targeted every single goddamn year for one “reform” after another, vouchers from the fundies and charter schools from the liberals,  forced by law to take every spark of individuality and interest out of their curricula and then blamed when their students lose interest, resented their pensions and their health care by people who then blame them when their kids turn out to be apathetic.

Once the media horror dies down about Soto and her co-workers’ sacrifices, I guarantee you this: public school grade school teachers will go right back to being the despised class. “Union thugs.” “With three-month vacations.” “Teaching kids their ABCs.” All the idiotic, ill-informed, right wing anti-intellectual myths will rev up again as if nothing had happened. And in the meantime the people the Fox pundits despise will go on teaching kids to read and do math and treat each other with respect.

In other words, it’s not really that much of a jump to imagine all the teachers I know instinctively taking a bullet to protect their kids. To a first approximation, every single one of them does the same thing every waking moment, giving up their lives by increment to give their students a chance at a better life.

I don’t at all mean to trivialize the sacrifice Soto and her colleagues made by comparing it to, say, having to buy pencils on your own dime because the Republicans cut your district’s budget even further. What I’m saying is that given the kind of peson who chooses to remain in the profession despite all the sacrifice and opprobrium because they want to help kids, Soto’s tragic sacrifice isn’t in the least surprising. It’s what teachers do.

So I just thought I’d take a moment to thank those of you reading this who are, or who have been, grade school teachers for your routine heroism. We don’t recognize it enough.

Let me anticipate a likely semi-trollish objection: yes, there are grade school teachers who should not be teaching. Yes, there are burned out seat warmers. Yes, there are people teaching subjects they’re not really qualified to teach. Yes, there are the occasional people who shouldn’t be around children at all. If our society valued teachers the way teachers as a class deserve, such people wouldn’t be there. The incompetent and the abusive would never make the cut, and the burned-out would be far less burned out.

128 comments

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  1. 1
    The Mellow Monkey: Non-Hypothetical

    This is what everyday sacrifice and heroism looks like. Not playing John Wayne. Not dramatics and bluster. Just aiding children day in and day out, trying to make the world a better place one little person at a time.

    And, yes, stepping between a gun and those children one day when the unthinkable happens.

  2. 2
    Chris Clarke

    Incidentally, for those of you who do petitions to Obama, there are a few out there demanding he start taking gun control seriously. I like this one best, but that’s probably because I wrote it. (The others hadn’t shown up before I hit “publish.)

    17,000 + signatures in 24 hours. O Brave New World.

  3. 3
    The Mellow Monkey: Non-Hypothetical

    There’s this one with 95,000+ signatures as well.

    At the very least, these might get some attention. Yes, it is the time to discuss this.

  4. 4
    Chris Clarke

    This is what everyday sacrifice and heroism looks like. Not playing John Wayne.

    Which is why I am infuriated by the death cult ideologues who call for arming teachers.

  5. 5
    Inaji

    So I just thought I’d take a moment to thank those of you reading this who are, or who have been, grade school teachers for your routine heroism. We don’t recognize it enough.

    No, we don’t. Thank you to all of you teachers who carry on every day in a thankless job, which is the most important job there is. Thank you.

  6. 6
    dianne

    I was just thinking about this. Teachers are expected to not just teach, but also babysit when parents are late picking their kids up, counsel them when they’re having psychological problems, buy them pencils and scissors when their parents can’t afford them, and, apparently, stand between them and crazies with guns. Maybe it would be ok to have taxes be 0.00001% higher so that they could make a living wage?

  7. 7
    unclefrogy

    absolutely! I agree and would go further in indorsing the idea that if we valued teachers and education as much as we value being rich or being a pop star or pro athlete we would be going a long way to avoiding this kind of event in the future.
    We seem to love and value kids in the abstract except in times like this. They seem far more important as a market segment than as individual people,
    I have a very difficult time understanding our relationship to children generally and education in particular.

    uncle frogy

  8. 8
    Inaji

    Also, both petitions signed.

  9. 9
    joed

    Thank you PZ for this. When the time comes the adults in charge of children can do whatever it take to protect those kids. In those instances is seems all children are of the same parents.

  10. 10
    ohiofreethinker

    I agree. We need to change our approach to education, the factory model doesn’t really work well. But I don’t think the teachers are the problem. It’s too easy for people to get off track and blame the wrong people.

    With very few exceptions, every teacher I’ve met has been an awesome person who really cared about their students (although I may not have always appreciated my own teachers when I was in their class!)

  11. 11
    Ichthyic

    This is what everyday sacrifice and heroism looks like. Not playing John Wayne. Not dramatics and bluster. Just aiding children day in and day out, trying to make the world a better place one little person at a time.

    you know, I just saw the Hobbit Fri. night, and Gandalf said something very much like this to Galadriel at Rivendale.

    something about how the only real way to keep evil at bay is not through great power, but by the little things we do for each other, every day, out of love.

    sadly, I can’t find the exact quote online yet anywhere.

  12. 12
    joed

    Well, actually I meant to say , thank you Chris.

  13. 13
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    A scene about how schools should be run.

  14. 14
    Ichthyic

    ah, found it:

    “Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps because I am afraid, and he gives me courage.”

    man, I’m such a geek.

  15. 15
    Ichthyic

    I admit to thinking that was the most memorable scene in the whole movie for me.

  16. 16
    mouthyb, Vagina McTits

    Thank you, K-12 teachers.

  17. 17
    rob burton

    Thank you for posting this, in times such as these, society needs to see that there’s hope; even if you have to really look for it.
    It’s almost effortless to become mired in a sense of helplessness and rage at the apparent injustice. But taking a moment to acknowledge that someone, anyone was willing to do what they could is a horrible, but necessary reminder that our lives and safety aren’t guaranteed. And sometimes to protect what matters most, we may be called to sacrifice everything. I can only hope that if ever called to sacrifice my own life to protect those most in need, I’ll have the same courage they did.
    My sincerest and deepest admiration goes to the adults who gave their lives for someone else’s children…

  18. 18
    imthegenieicandoanything

    By all acounts derived from the compost heap that is the American Mass Media, and from the vicious meanness and idiocy displayed by our politicians from school board to the Presidency (though not the cureent one), the envious hatred of teachers is the majority opinion – and in even our damaged version of democracy these reflect the basic oinions of the People – but I simply NEVER meet it in real (non-internet) life. There are complaints, many and often valid, about teachers but not the hatred, which often verges on insanity, that is the rule of the “public debate.”

    As I age, my tolerance, once broad and calm as some vast subterranean lake, has become more and more easily stirred to rage at these secondhand insults to honesty and decency, but the stupid, ignorant, insane and/or evil who toss them out more casually than they breathe simply never appear in the form of living, breathing human beings whose arguments and failings I can at least attempt to comprehend and negotiate.
    As abstracts – wingnut shrieking on the web – and percentages – “pro-life” and anti-gun control polls – they seem to exist only to be unchangeable by any forces of reason or expression.

    Of course, anyone who insulted teachers and defended guns in my presence now would be advised to run away at best speed.

  19. 19
    postman

    As the son of two retired elementary school teachers, I want to thank you for your post.

  20. 20
    Chris Clarke

    Well, actually I meant to say , thank you Chris.

    If you can read my byline, thank a teacher. ; )

  21. 21
    carlie

    There’s a banner ad for “Concealed Carry Magazine” at the top of this page right now. Sometimes the auto “words in post=advertising category” thing makes me really want to throw up. I know there’s nothing that can be done about it, but oy. Although, on second thought, good. I want the connection between what they’re selling and what the results of that are to be that explicit.

  22. 22
    chrisv

    Having retired after several decades in a non-educational field, I am now working as a (substitute) paraprofessional/teacher assistant in grades Pre-K to 8. I had no idea what para pros did…now I do! They (we) work hand-in-hand with teachers allowing them to concentrate on teaching. We wash hands, wipe noses, calm the distressed, protect, tutor, zip up parkas, arrange back packs, etc. And every para I have worked with is just as dedicated as their teacher partners. Trust me, when classes go into lockdown, there is almost surely a para huddling with the kids, assuring them that they are going to be OK.

  23. 23
    magistramarla

    Thank you, Chris.
    I was a high school Latin teacher until my physical disabilities got to the point that I could no longer do the job well. I loved “my kids” and several of them told me that if there was a fire or other emergency, they would make it their business to come to my room to carry me down the stairs. I always brushed them off and told them that was the job of the safety officer for my floor.
    When you teach the same kids for two to four years, as I often did (Latin I-IV), you develop a close relationship with them. I’m still in touch with several of them, and I miss teaching very much.
    It would be nice to see those who work so hard in a mostly thankless profession appreciated by our society.

  24. 24
    jamesmc

    I was just thinking this earlier today. I am glad to hear someone with a platform say it.

    And as a current teacher, I can testify to everything you said, especially about the vitriol we face. I left a career as a lawyer to become a teacher. I often tell people the biggest difference is that people will tell lawyer jokes all day long, but when they meet a lawyer, they respect them. Teachers, on the other hand, will receive words of respect in public, even from reformers, but as a practical matter, we are treated like dirt.

    I am not exaggerating when I say that everyone, from Washington to state government to local school board to even school level administrators treats teachers as if we are shiftless idiots incapable of motivating ourselves, never mind our students. This is a hard job, made harder by all the grandstanding assholes who have their hands involved in the administration of schools. Yet teachers everywhere go to work every day. Most of them love their jobs, too. Why? Becaue after you shut out all the distractions and hostility, educating kids is a great joy. I can’t imagine doing anything else. That’s why I keep doing it even as the existence of my profession is under attack every day. (I teach in Louisiana) I am sure the teachers in Sandy hook felt the same way. If not, they would have left a long time ago. Given the hostile atmosphere and difficult task teachers handle every day in order ro help their students, I too am unsurprised at these stories of heroism. It was the same character they always had, only revealed for all the world to see.

  25. 25
    Socio-gen, something something...

    Thank you for this. My former in-laws were public school teachers for 28 and 32 years, respectively, and both were dedicated to their students. I know that neither would have hesitated to place themselves between a gunman and the children in their care.

  26. 26
    JeffreyD

    Thank you, Dr. Myers. One daughter and one niece are teachers. I have always been proud of them and all other who undertake such a hard calling.

  27. 27
    Ichthyic

    Thank you, Dr. Myers. Chris Clarke

    ftfy.

  28. 28
    Inaji

    Jeffrey! *pouncehug* You haven’t been here in a while – Chris Clarke is co-blogging here now and this is his post.

  29. 29
    JeffreyD

    True, Ichthyic and Caine. I did not notice until post posting. Apologies to Chris Clarke.

    Hugs back to you Caine. Not back, saw someone had posted this on FB and came in to read. More hugs and a smile and a take care, dear.

  30. 30
    carlie

    JeffreyD! *hugs* Here, have a comfy chair, here’s an ottoman to rest your feet on, here’s a nice drink, I’m sure we have some snacks around here somewhere…

  31. 31
    Cynthia Gomez

    I’m a teacher and I know firsthand how self-sacrificing and brave teachers are, every day, giving of themselves for the good of their children. To throw yourself in front of a gunman to protect young people is an act that should be celebrated.

    But.

    The story of Ms. Soto is circulating all around the Internet, and there isn’t nearly enough of an accompanying wish to verify what is being reported. For example, many articles (and a widely-circulating FB photo) have her saying something to the gunman. Even those that don’t, report confidently what we allegedly did. First problem:

    1) Since she and the gunman are both dead, and there is no mention of any other adults being in the room, the only witnesses to this event are terrified 6-year-olds. That doesn’t mean that they can’t be reliable, but children of that age are highly suggestible and don’t distinguish between fantasy, reality, fear, and wish, in the same way that we do.

    2) None of the material that has her speaking to the gunman bothers to mention a source, 6-year-old or otherwise.

  32. 32
    sebloom

    Thanks for this post. I taught elementary school for 35 years until my retirement in 2010…and now volunteer in a local school. Nothing in my experience was even close to what happened in CT yesterday, and no one really knows what they would do in this kind of an emergency, but my guess is that most if not all of my former colleagues would do anything to protect the children in their care.

    I am so proud of the way the teachers at Sandy Hook protected their children…as much as they were able. Crises like this seem to produce heroes…though my guess is that they were heroes already in the eyes of their children and their parents.

    We can’t let another tragedy like this come and go without changing anything…without acting to prevent this from ever happening again.

  33. 33
    Chris Clarke

    Apologies to Chris Clarke.

    There are worse people to be taken for! Welcome (back), JeffreyD.

  34. 34
    John Morales

    Cynthia, you raise a very good point.

  35. 35
    Chris Clarke

    For what it’s worth, Snopes has a Sandy Hook Massacre page started to try to debunk some of the rumors/urban legends.

  36. 36
    Gvlgeologist, FCD

    Sadly, this is not the first time that a teacher has sacrificed him/herself in this type of tragedy. You may all remember Liviu Librescu, who was killed holding the door closed against the Va Tech shooter, not long enough ago.

    I doubt, even after this, that our political leaders will have the courage to do anything substantive. As those above have mentioned, in addition to instructors, confessors, caretakers, etc. that our teachers have to be, now we will expect them to be bodyguards. Already, libertarian idiots on FB are suggesting that this could have been avoided if our teachers had been armed. Will they get a handgun allowance in their pay?

  37. 37
    Inaji

    sebloom:

    I taught elementary school for 35 years until my retirement in 2010

    Thank you for your long years of dedicated service*.
     
    Hey, if military people get thanked for their service, so should teachers.

  38. 38
    Gvlgeologist, FCD

    goddamit to hell. I submit my comment and it disappears! I’ll try to reconstruct it (and save it in Word, too):

    Sadly, this is not the first time, even in recent memory, that a teacher has sacrificed his/her life to protect students. You may remember Liviu Librescu, who held the door closed in the face of the Va Tech shooter, and was killed for it, but gave enough time for most of his students to escape.

    I doubt our political leaders have the courage to try to prevent this from happening again. Already, libertarian idiots on FB are suggesting that this wouldn’t have happened if our teachers were armed. So in addition to being teachers, confessors, substitute parents, and caretakers for our children, we will now expect them to be bodyguards as well. Will they be allowed training time and given a handgun allowance in their pay?

  39. 39
    John Horstman

    Thank you all teachers generally, and especially Jon Hodgson, Juanita Weare, Jane Heffron, Gail Yanisch, Marti Berg, Jayne Perkins, Beth Schmidt, Glen Saeger, Kevin Kane, and Kirk Juffer. They all were wonderful teachers who helped foster my (so far) lifelong love of knowledge and learning, and I have no trouble imagining that they would have sacrificed themselves without hesitation to try to protect us had there been a need (though, thankfully, there never was).

  40. 40
    Inaji

    There’s one teacher in particular I have long wished to thank.

    Ms. Carol Ritzenthaler, thank you for caring about an extremely abused and fucked up kid. Thank you very much. Knowing that you cared helped me through a very bad point. I’m an old broad now and I’m doing well, I’m happy. ♥

  41. 41
    Chris Clarke

    Dave Roycroft and Joe Stieve, biology and geology teachers (respectively) at Calasanctius Preparatory School in Buffalo, NY in the early 1970s, for recognizing my ADD in classroom settings even before the ailment had a name and taking me out on fieldtrips into the natural world of Western New York for free-form education where it actually worked for me, thank you.

  42. 42
    Inaji

    Chris:

    taking me out on fieldtrips into the natural world of Western New York for free-form education where it actually worked for me

    How great is that? Truly wonderful.

    Ms. Ritzenthaler was the first person who made me feel like a person in a very long time. She treated me like a person and she probably saved my life. There simply are no adequate words for what some teachers do.

  43. 43
    Socio-gen, something something...

    Mrs. Soprano and Mrs. Kuykendall of Main Elementary in Athens PA who gave a timid and lonely little girl a place to feel safe. At Northeast Bradford Jr/Sr. High in Rome PA: Marie Petronchak Parks, who taught me the power of the written word and applauded my ability to wield that power, Andrew Johnson, who taught me to love history, and Gary Cranmer, guidance counselor, who saw more in me than I ever did.

  44. 44
    Socio-gen, something something...

    Caine:

    She treated me like a person and she probably saved my life.

    That was Mr. Cranmer for me. Maybe because he dealt with his own depression, he recognized mine and because of his kindness, the simple act of treating me like a human being whose goals, dreams, and opinions were valued, he kept me from committing suicide when I was 14. Sadly, he took his own life in 1991 and I never got a chance to thank him. I’ll regret that always.

  45. 45
    Socio-gen, something something...

    Damn. Apparently I can’t just refresh the page after commenting…

  46. 46
    Inaji

    Socio-gen:

    Sadly, he took his own life in 1991 and I never got a chance to thank him. I’ll regret that always.

    Oh, such sadness. At least right here, right now, we can deliver a message to teachers everywhere – you may never know the depth of difference you make in so many lives. Know that you do make a difference and know it’s appreciated for a lifetime.

  47. 47
    generallerong

    Thanks for this. Similar thoughts came to me – that the teachers in this situation performed heroically despite all the crap our society currently ladles upon them.

    Ack. Now I’m crying.

  48. 48
    John Morales

    Socio-gen, odd.

    Try F5, and if that doesn’t work, try Ctrl-F5*.

    (If that doesn’t work, something is very wrong with either your browser or your settings)\

    * Alternatively, Ctrl-R and Ctrl-Shift-R

  49. 49
    chigau (違う)

    Anne B.
    Drama and English for Grades7-9.
    Thank you.
    RIP.

  50. 50
    mildlymagnificent

    It’s one thing to criticise politicians and the media for bad-mouthing teachers, but they wouldn’t get away with it if there weren’t far too many parents of school children reciting the same mantras. When I’ve been assessing children for learning problems I always had to be really careful not to make any remark that could possibly have been construed as negative about schools or teachers. All that ‘million weeks of holidays a year’, ‘how hard can it be!, my child never gets the attention s/he needs, lazy, finish work early every day and every other cliche got trotted out all the time.

    In the very next breath, the same person will tell you that they’re having the next kids’ birthday party at a restaurant because they can’t cope with a dozen kids in their house for a couple of hours. It’s a bit hard not to snap back at someone who’s paying you substantial fees for tuition, but trying to suggest that dealing with 30 kids for six+ hours a day, 5 days a week and being up till midnight doing prep and marking is not anyone’s idea of a picnic (with or without kids) can be done a step at a time.

    Don’t worry about the politicians so much. It’s the water cooler and the dinner table where this stuff needs to be nipped in the bud.

  51. 51
    Stacy

    Ms. Helen Bagley. Humanities, Grades 10-11.

    She’s gone now. Luckily, I was able to thank her and tell her something of what a difference she’s made in the life of a girl who’d lost everything and was dealing with clinical depression. She brushed off my thanks and said she’d done no more than most teachers would have done.

    Also, Ms. Shirley Kennedy, 1930 – 1974. grade school teacher and later administrator for the Bassett Unified School District in Los Angeles County.

    Many thanks. RIP

  52. 52
    left0ver1under

    Once the media horror dies down about Soto and her co-workers’ sacrifices, I guarantee you this: public school grade school teachers will go right back to being the despised class.

    And the teachers will go right back to working hard and educating kids, which will garner even less notice.

  53. 53
    johnkennedy

    I teach and I wish that in a similarly horrifying situation I would react like these brave teachers. I know how much I care about my students, so it is not a stretch to protect them in any way possible.

  54. 54
    sheila

    I think Taylor Mali said it best: What teachers make
    “I make a goddamn difference, how about you?”

  55. 55
    sebloom

    @Caine, Fleur du mal #36 — Thank you.
    @sheila #53 — *like

    I like how this thread has become a “thank you teacher” thread (at least in part).

    Thank you Mrs. Glazer, English Sullivan HS in Chicago (1966), Mr. Papengelis, Math (same) and Mrs. Gilbert, 3rd grade Rogers School in Chicago, c. 1957.

    Teachers come from many places as well…not just the classroom. A few extra who have taught me well are Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan, and Jim Trelease (http://www.trelease-on-reading.com/).

  56. 56
    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    I was lucky that several teachers made a difference in my life

    Mrs. Sohrweid realized I wasn’t learning disabled–just bored out of my tiny little 2nd grade skull

    Miss Reed brought humanity into a 4th grade classroom

    Above all the rest, Dave Rogers who went above and beyond the call, teaching students

    to love history
    to write coherently
    to think clearly
    to care about the planet
    and who introduced us to Edward Abbey

    A victim of Agent Orange in Viet Nam, but he lived to see half a dozen or so of his students receive advanced degrees.

  57. 57
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Yvonne.
    My German teacher from grades 5-13, whose unfaltering belief in each and every one of her students made a difference.
    I will always remember how, when one of my classmates had worked his ass off to complete an assignment and fell asleep during class, she made us get up quietly and leave.
    Klaus.
    My economics teacher grades 11-13. He always said that he first and foremost teaches pupils. Then he teaches a subject. That’s a sentence that always stuck with me.

    +++
    As a teacher in training I know those triades against teachers well: Lots of holidays*, easy, overpaid…. And when you ask that person “well, would you like to do it?” they quickly tell you that they wouldn’t want to deal with all those grubby kids everyday and that they can make better money elsewhere.

    *Something those people always conveniently forget is that allthose holidays are decided for you. You’re neighbour’s funeral? The birth of your grandchild? Well, send a card…

  58. 58
    joachim

    Roig is one tough woman.

    If only she had a gun, she could have taken him out.

  59. 59
    amandamarcotte

    We also know that the school psychologist and principal died trying to confront the shooter and warn the rest of the building, as well.

  60. 60
    joachim

    If only they had been able to confront him with a gun, the kids would still be alive.

  61. 61
    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    Jochim, might I suggest you confront yourself with a gun…intimately.

  62. 62
    dianne

    joachim: The scenario you are describing has never happened. There were armed people in the crowd when Rep Gifford was shot. They only managed to shoot other bystanders. Most of the injuries in the Empire State shooting were due to police firing an excessive number of bullets.

    Well, perhaps if the first victim had had a gun it would have helped. If only Nancy Lanza had had a gun! Oh, wait, she did. In fact, she had several. They were used to kill 20 first graders and Lanza. Very protective things, guns.

  63. 63
    dianne

    Teachers to thank…

    Mme. Comfort and Mme. White who taught me French and the concept that foreign languages weren’t impossible to learn.

    All of my humanities and social sciences teachers who taught me that I didn’t have to get stressed about writing but could just sit down and do it. Thereby at least doubling my professional output.

    My science teachers who taught me how to think skeptically about data and not just accept something as “scientific” because someone claiming to be a scientist said it.

    Ms. Woods who taught me math in a way that made sense to me.

    Many more I’m leaving out.

    I realize that none of the things I’m thanking teachers for is as dramatic as saving me from a gunman or the darker reaches of my own brain, but I wanted to thank teachers for being good at what they do. They shouldn’t have to go above and beyond to get thanked. (Though I’m very glad that they often do. The world would be a worse place without, for example, Caine and Socio-gen.)

  64. 64
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    joachim
    If people didn’t react to your gun-nuttery it’s because they don’t want to derail a thread about the wonderful things teachers do to argue with you.
    Do everybody the curtesy and take it to the appropriate threads.

  65. 65
    sebloom

    @52 johnkennedy

    It’s hard to know what one would do. I still volunteer in a local school…since they know me (I taught in the school system for so many years) I have my own small office. While watching the coverage of the tragedy in CT I kept thinking (as I’m sure many teachers did over the last couple of days), “What would I do if that happened and I had a student or students with me.” In my mind I locked the door, dragged the metal cabinet in front of it…and huddled down between the door and the kid(s) to protect them, but if it actually happened…what would I do?

    I’m 64 years old…I’ve lived a long time relative to the 6 and 8 year olds I work with — and they deserve the same chance. I hope that I would do the same as the courageous teachers at Sandy Hook…

    Another tragedy to come from this is that it’s something we have to think about…

    The reality is that some teachers face similar situations every day…driving into neighborhoods which are essentially war zones.

  66. 66
    joachim

  67. 67
    joachim

  68. 68
    joed

    Thank you teachers at Sandy Hook. True courage is exemplified by your acts of sacrifice and concern for the children.
    Seems the full, complete and entire spectrum of humaness flowed together at the time.

  69. 69
    amandamarcotte

    joachim: How do criminals get these guns, if it’s illegal to manufacture and sell them? Who do they steal them from, if law-abiding people don’t own them?

  70. 70
    dianne

    Chris, would you consider a banhammer or at least a Thunderdome only hammer for Joachim? This really isn’t the thread for what he’s doing. I apologize for responding to the provocation myself.

  71. 71
    joed

    Hopefully this is the right thread to bring this up.
    What really gets me to thinking is the question as to why these sort of tragedies are directed at the most defenseless of people?!
    Why don’t these shooters attack a police station or military base? Seems they don’t have an escape plan or end up killing self as planned any way?
    Is there some psychological advantage(whatever that is) to going after children?

  72. 72
    vaiyt

    If any one of those people had a gun, he could have been stopped.

    Perhaps.
    Perhaps if the teachers and principal and had the habit of bringing guns to kids’ classrooms, we’d see the school a lot earlier on the news due to yet another accidental shooting.
    Perhaps some of the brave people who stood up to the killer wouldn’t be there at all, snuffed out earlier by gun-related conflicts or accidents.
    Perhaps the extra bullets flying around could have hurt even more people, like in previous shootings.
    Perhaps, if one of the kids had a gun, they could have dodged the bullets and shot Lanza mid-jump, Max Payne style.

    The possibilites are endless.

  73. 73
    vaiyt

    If guns are illegal, only the criminals will have guns you fools.

    I used to believe in this bullshit.

    Then I examined the underlying assumption – that giving every schmuck a gun gives them the chance to fight back against criminals. Thing is, it does, sometimes. It also gives them extra chances to kill themselves, draw lethal force when it’s not warranted, and overall increases the potential violence in their lives. As it turns out, the extra risk isn’t worth the possible benefit.

    Yes, if guns are illegal, only the criminals will have guns. That means we don’t need to worry about getting shot by a schmuck for cutting them in traffic.

  74. 74
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Asked for a moderator to mail PZ.

    +++
    To get back to the topic: Just packed some treat bags for my kids’ kindergarten teachers*. No, that would have happened anyway.

    *and the kitchen personel and the jaintors, because they’re important, too.

  75. 75
    evilDoug

    a comment at Esquire:

    Lauri Lebo · Top Commenter · Communications/Organizing at PSEA
    In Red Lion, Pa., years ago, we had a mentally deranged man sneak into our public elementary school with a machete and push his way into a kindergarten classroom, where he started swinging. None of the children were hurt that day. Because, well, he was armed with only a machete. Also, because of the two teachers and the principal, all women, who placed their bodies in between the man and those children, and who warded off the blows with only their bare hands. I interviewed the principal, Norina Bentzel, months later. She showed me the scars where the machete had cut through her fingers and down through her palm to her wrist. And she told me, “My hands are ugly.” I told her then, and I would tell her today, she has the most beautiful hands I’ve ever seen.

  76. 76
    evilDoug

    Careful, a_ray_in_dilbert_space!
    The fucking asshole feels threatened by you (“is that a threat? I am reporting it as one”) and is now entitled to shoot you to stand his ground.

  77. 77
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    Giliell @73:
    That is such a wonderful thing you’ve done.

  78. 78
    joachim

  79. 79
    joachim

  80. 80
    Pteryxx

    Message sent. (You could have stopped with ONE troll message, bud.)

  81. 81
    joachim

  82. 82
    Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    In China two days ago a nut killed injured 21 kids with a knife.

    They didn’t die, cupcake.

  83. 83
    joachim

  84. 84
    joachim

  85. 85
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    In China two days ago a nut killed 21 kids with a knife.

    Citation to the deaths fuckwit. What has been cited said only wounded. You lose loser, as always. Fact beat sloganism every time.

  86. 86
    Chris Clarke

    Joachim, you are done in this thread. Take it to the Thunderdome or some site where your contributions are welcome.

  87. 87
    sebloom

    Thank you Chris.

  88. 88
    Chris Clarke

    a_ray_in_dilbert_space @60, I completely understand the impulse, but never tell someone to kill themselves in one of my threads again. Thanks in advance. (This may properly be interpreted as a blanket edict.)

  89. 89
    SallyStrange

    Geez, I feel terrible for not remember my 10th grade social studies teacher’s name. He talked about world history and asked the class what they thought about the British record in India, and when I told him I knew a fellow from India, he advised me to write a letter to him and ask him what HE thought. I did, and it was one of the best learning experiences in my life. Also, I’m still friends with Krishna. He also gave me the opportunity to become a copy editor by bringing me into the school newspaper, which was where I made the few friends I actually had in high school.

    And Mr. Clemons, who did a better job with his anthropology class in getting kids interested in evolution, thanks to his talk of hominids, apes, and human beings’ “pendulous penises.”

    And Mrs. Johnson, 11th grade English, who taught me to read critically and enjoy literature even more than I actually did.

  90. 90
    SallyStrange

    I adore the bunnyhammer, by the way.

  91. 91
    Chris Clarke

    I will also abuse my thread owner privilege to note the abundant projection from our departed gun nut, accusing everyone who faces their lives without a gun of being a coward.

    And now to the teacher’s lounge for coffee.

  92. 92
    Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    From the “Acknowledgements” page of my Ph.D. dissertation:

    “…the late Russell W[], for teaching me to love science and keep asking “why?”

    Sixth grade.

  93. 93
    Chris Clarke

    Giliell @73 and others: It’s best to contact me rather than PZ for moderation in my threads, if only because I’m not grading papers. Monitors can ping me if they want my contact info to add to their databases.

  94. 94
    SallyStrange

    I should say, Mr. Clemons did a better job than the biology teacher of getting kids interested in evolution.

    Unsurprising, since the biology teacher was a creationist.

    BTW, Chris, Western New York is so gorgeous. I’m there (ish) right now. Well, south central. But you get the point.

  95. 95
    Chris Clarke

    SallyStrange @93: I do miss it. I have a lot of family in the Finger Lakes, including cousins in high school I’ve never met because I haven’t been back in decades. Seneca and Ontario and Yates counties. Don’t honestly know if I’ll ever get back there, though I probably do need to visit Hank Fox and his artsy roommate at some point.

  96. 96
    SallyStrange

    I’ll go for a hike in Fillmore Glen for you, Chris. If you ever do get out here, let us know, because there are several Pharyngulites in the area who’d be pleased to meet you!

  97. 97
    riftmann

    Victoria Soto is a hero, no doubt about it. I in no way want to diminish this.

    But things are very confused at this point, naturally.

    http://www.snopes.com/politics/guns/newtown.asp

    I just wanted to remind people there were a lot of heroes at Sandy Hook, apparently the gunman had to break his way into the school and several people died trying to stop him.

    Also, what the hell is wrong with John Wayne? I can’t imagine him doing this, or wanting to arm 7 year olds. :P

  98. 98
    Tethys

    It so nice that joachim was bunnified by the time I logged in to comment. Thanks Chris!

    —–

    I wish to thank Miss Ross, 2nd grade, for getting me special permission to check out books from the “big kids” section of the school library.

    Mr. Lofboom, 5th grade, for all the personal time and attention he gave to a depressed and neglected child.

    Mr. Perpich, 10th grade biology, for his uncompromising commitment to teaching the scientific method and critical thinking, and for introducing me to the wonders of microscopes.

  99. 99
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Thanx, Chris, for the bunnyhammer and the info.

    Now, English ain’t my mothertongue, but either me or joachim have a very confused idea about the word “coward”

  100. 100
    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    Chris, it was not my intent to suggest anyone leave this veil of tears. The sort of confrontation I was suggesting, based on the tendency of Joachim types to use large firearms to compensate for other inadequacies, would have resulted at worst in a painful fistula that could have been resolved by prompt if embarrassing medical attention.
    Nonetheless, my post was inappropriate, especially on a thread dedicated to the heroism of teachers. Feel free to delete it, and this as well if you prefer. I like bunny videos.

  101. 101
    SallyStrange

    Chris, you’ve been both places–so, is it true, what Dar Williams says, that Southern California wants to be Western New York?

  102. 102
    Chris Clarke

    I love that song.

  103. 103
    mythbri

    Remember after the Aurora shooting, when several people on Twitter said “I hope you’re worth it” in response to the news that some men in the theater had shielded their wives or girlfriends with their bodies?

    I’ll bet that no one says that about these kids.

    ….

    I have many wonderful teachers to thank:

    Mr. Harmer, fifth grade, who took me horseback riding as a reward for improving my grades, and who later died on a horseback riding trip.

    Professor Frezza, whose lovely British accent and fierce intelligence allowed a small group of uber-nerds to talk about plays and get college credit for it.

    Senorita Taylor, for teaching me Spanish, geeking out with me about books, and indulging some of us by allowing us to play card games during the twenty-minute “news time” of the class.

    Mr. Young, who pushed us all to excellence and made “world class” a mantra to which a high school marching band could aspire.

  104. 104
    PZ Myers

    Joachim: banned. Way too many bunny videos.

  105. 105
    Chris Clarke

    Thank you, Professor.

  106. 106
    chigau (違う)

    Yes.
    I was developing a strong urge to get a pet rabbit.

  107. 107
    carlie

    If you ever do get out here, let us know, because there are several Pharyngulites in the area who’d be pleased to meet you!

    Seconded!

  108. 108
    Ichthyic

    +1

  109. 109
    Ichthyic

    (to videos of rabbits making me think I want one as a pet)

    not that it’s a bad thing.

  110. 110
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Bunny videos? *downloads for the Redhead*

  111. 111
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    Anya is getting very upset.

  112. 112
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    chigau
    Never ever get a pet rabbit.
    Get two of them (doe and neutered buck or two neutered bucks. Two spayed does still don’t get along well).
    [/teacher & mother of two bunny-owners]

  113. 113
    Chris Clarke

    Giliel @112:

    My Mileage May Vary. Thistle loathed other rabbits. He did, however, take to my dog and (later) my cat right away.

  114. 114
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Chris
    Well, the occasional confused rabbit exists indeed. I’m convinced that the one I had as a child (before I knew better) thought of himself as a dog who couldn’t bark. And my sister’s lone rabbit took to the dog as well.
    But in general rabbits are very social animals who need other rabbits around them. Nobody could know in advance that they are going to get the one lonesome rabbit, so it’s not something one should plan.

  115. 115
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    Janine:
    Anya died pretending to fight bunnies…

  116. 116
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    @116:
    I guess I need my hand held here, bc I don’t see what your issue is.

  117. 117
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    You see it or you don’t.

    Either you explain it and cite evidence to back up your assertions, or the wrongness doesn’t exist. “That which is asserted without evidence, (like your bullshit) can be dismissed without evidence”. Christopher Hitchens.

  118. 118
    Inaji

    Tony:

    I guess I need my hand held here, bc I don’t see what your issue is.

    No you don’t and there isn’t one. ‘rapiddominance’ is a known troll.

  119. 119
    rapiddominance

    It first went from Soto’s massive sacrifice to the smaller ones teachers make daily.

    Then it went from teacher sacrifice to teacher denigration.

    Teacher denigration was then used to blast away at conservatives and fundies. Notice two very healthy paragraphs saturated with politicization.

    All of this occurred within 24 hours of the second worst school shooting in US history.

    Some people are perfectly fine with this.

  120. 120
    Chris Clarke

    That’s an excellent book report, rapiddominance @ 120. Turn in a few more extra credit assignments like that and you’ll raise your average to a D+ before you know it.

  121. 121
    Inaji

    rapiddominance:

    It first went

    You failed at connect the dots, didn’t you?

  122. 122
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Teacher denigration was then used to blast away at conservatives and fundies. Notice two very healthy paragraphs saturated with politicization.

    As if your attitude isn’t? And not one citation, making it nothing but your OPINION anyway. Why should anybody believe a word you say if you can’t back it up with third party evidence…

  123. 123
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    Teacher denigration???
    What blog post did you read rapiddominance? Chris’ was a heartfelt appreciation for those in the teaching profession. The denigration you think he’s doing is a reference to how many people treat teachers in this country. In case you are not aware, teachers ARE too often treated like crap-a point Chris mentioned a few times. Also, in case you are unaware, teachers ARE under assault from many conservatives and fundies. That you do not like this doesn’t change reality. You fail at reading comprehension.

  124. 124
    David Marjanović

    Thank you for your long years of dedicated service*.

    Hey, if military people get thanked for their service, so should teachers.

    Seconded through fifthed.

    Teacher denigration was then used to blast away at conservatives and fundies. Notice two very healthy paragraphs saturated with politicization.

    All of this occurred within 24 hours of the second worst school shooting in US history.

    Some people are perfectly fine with this.

    It’s about fucking time people recognized that this issue is inherently political – that nothing less than nationwide action has any hope of being effective about it.

  125. 125
    David Marjanović

    Test:

    Notice two very healthy paragraphs saturated with politicization.

    Test:

    Teacher denigration was then used to blast away at conservatives and fundies. Notice two very healthy paragraphs saturated with politicization.

    All of this occurred within 24 hours of the second worst school shooting in US history.

    Some people are perfectly fine with this.

  126. 126
    David Marjanović

    I no can has Comic Sans? :-(

    (<q> makes quotation marks now? o_O )

  127. 127
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    David:
    Check out the Thunderdome. SGBM mentioned a solution for that problem over the weekend.

  128. 128
    vaiyt

    It first went from Soto’s massive sacrifice to the smaller ones teachers make daily.

    Then it went from teacher sacrifice to teacher denigration.

    If you can’t distinguish someone denouncing how teachers are treated like crap from someone actually treating teachers like crap, I have little hope for your reading comprehension.

    Notice two very healthy paragraphs saturated with politicization.

    The issue is inherently political. If you’re talking about how teachers are treated like crap, you end up with the issue of who’s making their profession miserable, who’s targeting them for abuse and who’s undermining their efforts to educate.

    All of this occurred within 24 hours of the second worst school shooting in US history.

    Some people are perfectly fine with this.

    Politicization: bad when my political opponents do it.

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