“The soul becomes dyed with the colour of its thoughts.” ~ Marcus Aurelius, 177 AD
Mrs. Preston rushed through her classroom door, pulling the door handle behind her. The door swooshed shut with a muted thud as the bell sounded, announcing that class had just begun.
Mrs. Preston had a million things on her mind that morning. Her oldest son was a sophomore at the University of Chicago. He was supposed to find out any day about a summer internship. He’d been turned down twice already, so this third opportunity was now his only option. It was stressful. Her middle child Sophie, a high school junior, was suffering from extreme distress following the Parkland massacre on Valentine’s Day 2018. There was a creepy loner in her school whom everyone was nervous about, now more than ever before. Her daughter’s worrying had ratcheted up to such a degree that it was now a huge concern to both Mr. and Mrs. Preston. Sophie was gripped with constant panic at seemingly trivial things. The weekend following Parkland, Sophie had boldly insisted that she be allowed to stay home and attend high school online from now on. What could a mother possibly say in response other than, “Sure, no problem.” Mrs. Preston had scheduled an appointment with a therapist for her daughter. The first appointment was the following week.
And there was Mrs. Preston’s mother who lived thirty minutes away in a newly developed retirement community. She’d recently fallen and broken her hip and was in rehab. She called every day, two or three times in fact, asking for everything under the sun. Monday it was sunflower seeds. Tuesday, tulips. Wednesday, a book. “Please come by after school, it’ll only take a minute.”… “But Mom, I have to bring Mia to dance lessons.”… You can stop by while Mia is in her lesson.” … “No Mom, I really can’t. I’ll see you this weekend.” … “I probably won’t be alive this weekend, please come by tonight.”
Mrs. Preston’s husband, Michael, was going though a professional midlife crisis. He’d had a successful twenty year career as a wealth manager, but now that his clients could invest on their own so easily, this industry was transforming and he’d finally decided to pursue other career opportunities. He’d been unemployed now for four months and had begun searching outside the state. Mrs. Preston had a nagging feeling in the pit of her stomach that she’d return home from work one afternoon and learn that her husband had accepted a position 1,000 miles away and they’d all be moving.
When Mrs. Preston had visited her dermatologist the week before, to have a strangely shaped mole checked, she’d received a call requesting she return to the office for a follow-up visit and an additional test. This was alarming, but she couldn’t spend too much time worrying about it or she wouldn’t be able to work. Her next visit was the following week.
The whole town was abuzz the past few days after a student in a neighboring school district had been found on campus with a loaded gun. The high school was only five miles from the middle school where Mrs. Preston taught social studies.
Immediately following Parkland, in fact the very next day, her middle school had an Active Shooter Drill. It had been on the calendar since January. The 7th grade students had been incredibly attentive during the lockdown. Mrs. Preston had been moved by their fierce determination to execute the instructions exactly as outlined. She’d never seen them so steadfast in resolve to follow directions. She herself had breathed a heavy sigh of relief that they’d all fit in her closet so neatly, and had remained quiet for the entire duration.
Mrs. Preston, pulled out her lesson plan and set it on the desk in front of her. After quickly reviewing it, she turned to the White Board and wrote in all caps, “Three Branches of Government.”
“Mrs. Preston, Mrs. Preston.”
Mrs. Preston pivoted to see who was calling her name. Oh yes, Grayson. His eyes were bulging with alarm. Actually, fear. “What is it, Grayson?” Mrs. Preston said soothingly.
“You forgot to lock the door. Remember? You can NEVER forget to lock the door.”
This is a true story from America’s heartland that outlines the reality of what “a day in the life of” an American teacher is all about. Expecting teachers to have the presence of mind to manage a loaded gun in this everyday dynamic is extremely ill-conceived.
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