Teachers Aren’t Soldiers

October 18, 2019

I am a National Board Certified Teacher and a ten-year veteran of the United States Army. Two things I know well are education and weapons. Let’s not mix them.

There are companies that offer concealed carry permit classes to teachers. Politicians across the country have expressed that armed teachers are a good way to stop school shootings. Some even suggest paying teachers a stipend for getting weapons training and carrying a gun at school.

In my time in the Army, I spent an extraordinary amount of time learning to accurately fire a weapon in all sorts of stressful situations. It’s one thing to practice firing a gun with someone telling you what to do. It’s far different when there are people running and screaming and people shooting back. Your aim is terrible and your finger pulls that trigger a lot faster than you’d imagine.

The likelihood of a student being shot by a well-meaning teacher is uncomfortably high. I worked with very well-trained soldiers and sometimes accidents happened. Guns went off that soldiers forgot were loaded. Soldiers in combat got shaky and pulled the trigger before they finished pointing their weapon toward the enemy. Guns are powerful and the slightest mistakes can have dire consequences. Nerves, disorientation, and panic all cause reactions in our bodies that we can’t control. That’s not good when you’re holding a gun.

When I was in the Army, we spent a great deal of time learning how to control our weapon and keep it in our possession. Nothing could be worse than losing your weapon. You might as well give it to the enemy so they can shoot you with it. What if a teacher drops a gun at school? That’s happened. A Utah teacher blew away a toilet a few years ago. What if a student finds a gun that a teacher accidentally drops or puts in their desk?

The Army emphasized physical fitness. There was an emphasis on being strong enough to make sure no one could take my weapon away from me. Few teachers have the physical fitness regimen of the U.S. Army. That makes me wonder what would happen if a student discovered a teacher had a gun and decided to take it away. A well-meaning teacher could provide a weapon for a school shooter.

Teachers shouldn’t be asked to guard the school. Teachers shouldn’t be paid for this service. Politicians shouldn’t advocate for teachers to carry guns. We should all advocate for teachers to be great teachers. Pay teachers a stipend for becoming National Board Certified. Pay teachers for the incredibly hard work they do. If you want guards in schools, then provide well-trained guards that can focus on school safety. If you are carrying a gun in a building full of children, you should focus on the job of safety. Teachers should focus on teaching.

I have fired more guns in more situations than nearly every teacher I know. Few teachers have any sort of police or military background. Teachers spend many years learning to teach children. Let teachers focus on that very important job. As a soldier I spent many years learning to fire weapons and defend myself. I have been out of that business since 2006. I know that without frequent training and practice, my skills aren’t as sharp. A one-time concealed carry permit class, even a yearly training, is not enough to ensure that a teacher carrying a gun can stop a school shooter without inflicting collateral damage or being a liability themselves.

Let teachers teach. Respect that job. If you want armed guards, then provide them.

Views expressed in blogs belong solely to the author and do not represent positions of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

Tony Zani, NBCT

Tony Zani has been teaching students to read, write, and think since 2000. He is currently a Literacy Coach in Salt Lake City and specializes in teacher leadership. Tony earned his National Board Certification in 2007 and 2017 and holds a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership. Tony is passionate about providing all of Salt Lake City’s students with a world-class education