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A textbook, a board marker and a … gun

Pramod Kanakath
Pramod Kanakath

Teacher in a reputed school in Jakarta

Jakarta | Wed, March 14, 2018 | 08:17 am
A textbook, a board marker and a … gun

Carrying a gun calls for a job within a job that is definitely not a teacher’s. (Shutterstock/File)

If I were to walk into a classroom with a pistol fastened to my waist like a police or security officer, I would need to be reborn as a teacher.

My students’ eyes will dwell more upon a potentially dangerous weapon than on my face or what I write on the whiteboard. The first few, or probably the first many lessons will be platforms for discussion on guns, their types, the ammunition and their sizes, their lethal capabilities and umpteen other explosive thrills that students revel at in video games. Added to that will be fear. What if the teacher misfires? Has he ever handled a gun before? Spontaneous fun will give way to moments of concern.

Or, if the deadly toy is carried covertly (concealed, as suggested by United States President Donald Trump), it will still not escape murmurs and curiosity. Students may indulge in betting games as to which teacher is hiding it in their pockets today, and who will sandwich it between the pages of a book tomorrow. For both the teacher and the taught, it might be a different experience whose desirability is very dubious.

I am completely aware that this esoteric topic is being either thought about or discussed in the other parts of the world, but the very idea of "arming teachers" sends some uneasy signals to the community wherever you teach. There are Asian teachers working in the US, in addition to those coming from Europe and elsewhere. So in one way or another, a teacher’s conscience is shaken by the possibility of an additional fragment in the lesson plan. Carrying a gun calls for a job within a job that is definitely not a teacher’s.

It is a bit appalling to hear that some of the schools in the US had been exploring the idea of arming teachers much before the President came up with it. Though it may not be possible to realize the actual situations that led them to think of this extreme measure, one wonders how educational institutions and their systems differ from one part of the world to another with such polar divisions. Where one sees something as necessity, the other can only dismiss it as despicable.

There is no doubt that teachers and the rest of the school staff are responsible for the children’s safety while their parents entrust them with it. Teachers play parents when they teach children in and out of the classroom. They play parents when they chaperone the children to different events and competitions.

These are done in the most peaceful ways between the two subjects with a shared feeling of harmony and academic achievement. The appearance of a weapon might bring about irksome feelings at times, which many teachers will grapple with. The gun may assume the power to change a teacher’s psychological normality, which is required for effective teaching, simply because a pressured teacher may wait for the gun’s actual use on a random deadly day.

What schools need to do is to strengthen the security in and around the school. There are high-level security measures for different departments of a ministry within governments all over the world. If a country feels that shootings at its schools are a common danger which need to be tackled, they must inevitably go for enhanced security controls. They should even pass a bill to match the intensity of this problem to that of terrorism. After all, it doesn’t matter whether you are shot at by a terrorist or a mentally deranged former student.

There are other measures which may preempt such problems stricter gun laws across the country which many people have talked about, clamored for and even implored for. I am not touching upon those just to refresh everyone’s familiarity. I am also not an expert on legal courses a state may take to pave way for a better, safer society.

What I presume is that a deadly weapon will not only add a terrible responsibility to the teacher’s routine, but also that he/she may have to reinvent themselves as an effective teacher.

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Pramod Kanakath is a full-time teacher, a part-time travel writer and photographer whose articles have appeared in The Guardian, BBC, CNN, SilverKris (Singapore Airlines' inflight mag) and other well-known publications. Check out his works at www.premtravels.me and follow him on Instagram at @premkan.

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