the pen is mightier than the sword…

Whenever anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always said, a teacher. I never considered another career.

My mother was a teacher. My grandfather was a teacher. Perhaps unsurprisingly, my brother and sisters and I are all teachers and collectively, we have taught for well more than a hundred school years. We have taught literature and writing, music and Spanish, graphic design and Math. We have taught clinics and workshops and tutorials, fall, winter and spring terms, summer school.

But what have we really taught, all these hours, weeks, months and years? We have taught people. Young children, middle school children, teenagers, college and graduate students. We have taught people how to write, speak, do, think, and they have taught us things, too — patience, humility, different perspectives, how to use technology.

In light of recent events, I have tried to think about what these experiences would have been like if we as teachers were required or encouraged to carry a weapon. But it doesn’t work. I can’t think what it would have been like, had my grandfather Max carried a firearm with him through the hallways of Classical High School in Providence, RI when he was a vice principal in the 1950s.  I can’t imagine what impact it would have had on my sister Lisa’s elementary school age students to see her playing the piano and singing around the contours of a gun holstered to her hip. Nor can I picture my mother holding a copy of Bleak House in one hand at her lectern and a pistol in her left.

While a gun is symbol of power, so, famously, is a pen. One has to be safe to learn, yes. But safety can be created in many ways — a look of acknowledgement, the touch of a hand, the sound of a question and an answer, or a writing utensil scratching across the lines of a page.



Jessica is a doctoral candidate, education consultant, writer and editor. She is the founder of bookclique, a collaborative of English teachers and students working to promote book culture, and a co-founder of Well-Schooled, the site for educator storytelling, dedicated to sharing first-person educator stories. All Rights Reserved - What I Learned Today in School.

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