Following last week’s mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, teachers across the country have faced tough questions from their students, and some new challenges returning to the classroom. This post comes from Paulita Kincer Rinehart, a writing teacher at Columbus State Community College in Ohio.
On Friday, as I stood before my classes, I made the same announcement each time: “Starting today, the door will be locked when class begins, so please don’t be late.”
It’s not part of my crackdown on tardiness — the latest school shooting has me a little antsy.
Umqua is a community college, like the one where I teach. Nine people, plus the shooter dead. Many more wounded, bleeding on the hard tile floors while their friends cowered and prayed for help.
I look at the picture of the students walking out of the classroom with their hands up, and I recognize them. Not the actual people, but the kinds of students whom I teach. Some of them are young, right out of high school. Others are older and chose to return to college. It’s still early enough in the semester that some of them carefully pick out their clothes and style their hair, but others, those raising kids and working full-time jobs, feel lucky to get out of the house without jam on their shirts or sleep in their eyes.
That’s why today I announced that we’d be locking the door.
“Is that glass bulletproof?” one student asked as he waved toward the glass in the door.
“No, but it’s one more deterrent, one more thing to slow someone down,” I said. “If someone knocks, I’ll go to the door to let them in. I’m old. I’ve lived my life.”
“Oh, man, that’s my dream to take out a shooter,” said Joseph, 25, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In Oregon, the veteran who charged the shooter, 30-year-old Chris Mintz, was shot six times.
“That guy was in my unit,” Joseph said.
Each of my classes has at least one veteran, and they all give me the sense that they would rush a door if a shooter appeared. But I don’t want them to have to do that. They are all young, and they survived horrible wars. They should find peace in their school, in their country.
One of my classrooms doesn’t lock with the swipe of my key card, and I don’t have a key. I emailed the woman in charge of scheduling and asked my classes to be changed. Within an hour, she had organized it so all of my classes will now meet in the same locked room.
Paulita Kincer Rinehart is the author of three novels: “Trail Mix,” “The Summer of France" and "I See London I See France.” She has a master’s degree in journalism from American University and has written for the Baltimore Sun, the St. Petersburg Times, the Tampa Tribune and the Columbus Dispatch. She teaches English composition and creative writing at Columbus State Community College. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband and three children. Follow her on Twitter @paulitakincer or visit her blog at www.paulita-ponderings.blogspot.com. This post originally appeared on her blog.
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