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I Never Thought I’d Fear For My Husband’s Life at Work—Until Now

Photograph by Twenty20

There are a lot of jobs that entail a partner kissing their loved one goodbye and wondering if they will see them again at the end of the day: police officers, firefighters, soldiers. I've often thought about what it might be like to have a husband in one of those jobs, to have pride in the work they do while simultaneously wishing they would do something less risky, like accounting.

But I have to admit that in the over 10 years my husband has been a public school teacher, I never once thought I would have to fear for his life when I sent him off to work in the morning.

Until now.

Last year, the middle school where my husband teaches stopped a plan that two former students had hatched to shoot up the school. There were detailed plans. Although no one is entirely sure just how close of a call it was, the fear still lingers. For the first time in my life, I genuinely fear for my husband’s life as a public school teacher.

For families in Florida, the fear became a living nightmare and parents everywhere are reeling with how to send their children back to school. A place that's supposed to be a place of safety, learning, friendships and laughable cafeteria food is now a place of threat.

Many of us, myself included, might be struggling with the feeling that it’s only a matter of time before the fear becomes reality again. In areas like where my husband teaches—full of low-income and low education levels, high mental illness without the corresponding necessary mental health care, drug abuse, and clear and easy access to guns (we live in an open carry state)— it feels even more dangerous.

I see people shouting solutions on Facebook that teachers should be armed and even more frightening. I see people who seem to think that’s a good solution. I have to seriously wonder if these people know what teachers do on a daily basis.

It’s not enough that they educate children now—they are now being asked to be literal bodyguards and lay down their physical lives.

Every day, my husband is responsible for so much in these young people’s lives. Students as young as 11 are coming to him in tears over family situations, over mental illness, over pregnancy scares (yes, really), over incredibly difficult situations that we can’t even fathom as adults. And every day, on a salary that is lower than the average statewide wage, he is supposed to deal with all of these issues while trying to educate them.

Navigating the emotional lives of students in a classroom feels like an impossible reality. Now you want him to be responsible for the physical lives of students too?

I am so very weary of the struggles that teachers have faced through the years. Teachers are responsible for our children eight hours of every day and we ask so much of them, yet give so little back to them, and now it feels like they are being asked to pay the ultimate price with their lives.

It’s not enough that they educate children now—they are now being asked to be literal bodyguards and lay down their physical lives.

I’m scared for the future of our children, the future of our teachers and the future of education. Where do we go from here? In a world where teachers are paying out of their own pocket to supply students with pencils, what more can we ask of them? How we can expect them to go into a classroom and teach children who are afraid for their very lives?

I’m honestly not sure what the answer is or what the future will hold. It feels like we are on the threshold of serious change for our children, for our educators and for our families. How that will be accomplished remains yet to be seen. But this much I do know: this week, there will be probably many wives like me, kissing their teacher spouses goodbye in the morning and hoping against hope they come home safe so we can kiss them goodnight, too.

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