Belfast Telegraph

We mightn't be trying to arm our teachers but they are still fully loaded when it comes to the roles we push on them

Taking a stand: activists hold up signs at the Florida State Capitol as they rally for gun reform legislation following the massacre in a Florida school
Taking a stand: activists hold up signs at the Florida State Capitol as they rally for gun reform legislation following the massacre in a Florida school

By Lindy McDowell

Only in America is the answer to the question of guns, more guns. At least it is, if you are Donald or Ivanka Trump who now both suggest that the obvious response to the horror of school mass shootings is to turn teaching staff into a quasi Delta Force.

Miss Jean Brodie? Give that woman an AK47.

Doubtless there will be some American teachers who might be happy enough to sign up to the plan.

Like a bookish posse from Dodge City.

But to most rational people, this is insanity. It's on a par with trying to put out a fire with petrol.

The awful school massacre that prompted this lunatic proposal from the American president has rightly shocked the world.

But even in the wake of such horrendous tragedy a dark humour is sparked by his argument.

Social media is already - inevitably - awash with memes ridiculing daft Donald's plan.

Those of us who can vividly recall the smack of wooden duster on skull will particularly relate to the image of a teacher shown holding aloft a handgun.

"Billy, is that chewing gum?" she's asking.

Outside of that, you do also imagine that a teaching staff fully armed with heavy weaponry might add an extra frisson to debate in the staff room about who might have snaffled a few of the Maths teacher's Hob Nobs.

But these will be "well-trained" teachers, Trump father and daughter assure us.

Well-trained in what?

The English literature curriculum? Or clay pigeon shooting?

And therein, in a way, lies a common theme that actually traverses the Atlantic when it comes to how we all now view a teacher's role.

Apparently, even here, it's limitless.

Who would want to be a teacher, anywhere these days, when you're expected to be part parent, part mate, part social worker, part counsellor, part medic and, if you can fit it in after all that, still hammer into them enough French verbs to get them through their GCSEs?

(And, if you're the principal, you've then still got the budgets to juggle with.)

In my day, all teachers had to do was teach.

Okay, so the Art teacher also occasionally had to do hemline patrol where the girls in our year were lined up to have skirt length measured for degree of outrage.

But generally, infraction of uniform guidelines was about the height of our teachers' involvement outside matters academic.

I'm not saying the old system was better.

But I do think we've maybe now rocked too far the other way imposing upon educators, and upon schools in general, what in some instances, should be parental responsibility.

From Breakfast Club to Afterschool Club, teachers are currently expected to provide a pastoral care that's at the same time both full-on and hands-off.

Compassion without hugs.

It must be such a tricky balance to maintain.

Good teachers always have been and always will have the capacity to change people's lives.

There are few of us, looking back, who can't identify one special teacher whose influence was both inspirational and lasting.

Teaching is such a special job. But I believe that we're now in danger of compromising that by overburdening those who are drawn to the profession with an increasing agenda of add-on accountability.

In America Ivanka Trump says; "I think that having a teacher who is armed, who cares deeply about her students or his students and who is capable and qualified to bear arms is not a bad idea..."

That "cares deeply" line is such a pointed little jab.

It sneeringly suggests, that Ivanka feels there maybe less "caring" teachers, indifferent to the dangers facing the children they see every day,

Ms Trump and her Twitter trigger-happy father demean an entire profession by the very suggestion it is therefore appropriate for teachers to operate as gunslingers.

But I don't necessarily think we're being all that fair to the profession on this side of the Atlantic either.

Granted we're not exactly putting automatic rifles in their hands here.

But we are, still, putting an awful lot on their shoulders.

It’s only rock and roll... and wall repairs

Sometimes you read a headline and it conjures up such a great picture in your mind.

So it was with me the other day when I read that one on the BBC NI website about, “Stones airlifted for Mourne wall repairs.”

In my mind’s eye I immediately saw the emergency helicopter swoop down, perhaps to a fabulous beach setting, where it plucked up, first Mick and then Keef and Ronnie, all with their trusty trowels in hand, ready to get cracking on that vital Mourne wall rehab.

Then I read the full story. Turns out, it was about a different type of rock entirely.

There should be no fuss over a father’s love

The Belfast Grand Master of the Orange Order, Spencer Beattie recently celebrated his daughter Lesa’s civil partnership with Melanie Atkinson in Carrickfergus.

Spencer, as his daughter’s loving da, was determined to walk his girl down the aisle. There’s a suggestion that this might now be seen as a major issue for the Order. But actually, I hope not. The chances of an Orangeman with a gay daughter or son is not that unusual. In this instance the touching, important thing was that, on her wedding day, Lesa had confirmation of just how much her dear father truly loves her. At the end of the day — what else matters?

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