Please welcome today’s guest writer, Spencer Cone. Spencer graduated from Calvin in January of 2015 and is now in his third year of teaching middle school English at Twin Peaks Charter Academy in Longmont, CO.

Part 1: Anger (February 21)

This is wrong.

Students… no, allow me to use a more tender word… children are being massacred across this country in the very places where we send them to learn and develop.

No longer can we call these atrocities isolated incidents perpetrated by a deranged student. This is systemic.

In response, all our leaders offer are “thoughts and prayers.” To which I say stop praying for us and start protecting us.

This is wrong.

A gun is not a toy.

Nor is it a trophy to brandish in front of your friends to prove your masculinity.

Nor is it some glorious object of self-defense.

No, a gun is a tool whose primal function is to cause harm, destruction, or death.

Prominent members of our society are now asking us as teachers, symbols of growth and inspiration in our community, to carry them to school every day.

This is wrong.

I teach sixth grade English at a K-12 school in Longmont, Colorado. A week after the Parkland shooting, I walked into our Wednesday staff meeting to learn that the topic was classroom defense. As a staff, we spent two hours discussing what to do in case of an attack.

Instead of brainstorming ways to better support struggling students, we talked about where to stash objects of defense, such as baseball bats or pepper spray, in our classrooms. Rather than revising our curriculum for next year, we practiced barricading our classroom doors using desks and tables—as if we were the frightened and desperate protagonists of a bad zombie movie.

The most disturbing part about this meeting is the fact it needed to happen. It seemed completely appropriate, and in some ways wise, for our staff to discuss this topic. Our schools are becoming war zones, and no one seems to blink an eye.

This is wrong.

Part 2: Despair (May 18)

My phone buzzes in my pocket while I’m leading a review session for our upcoming unit test on Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper.

My girlfriend is leaving today to guide an eight-day whitewater rafting trip down the Grand Canyon. Thinking it is a last minute “I love you” text from her before she loses service, I make my way to the back of the classroom to sneak a peek at my phone.

I’m torn to shreds when I see that, instead of a text from Julia, I’ve received a New York Times update briefing me that ten students were killed this morning at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas.

Burying my emotions inside me, I stagger up to the front of the room and manage to complete the review session. The bell rings, and I slump into my desk. All the anger over February’s Parkland shooting is gone. Instead, there is only despair and grief. Those could have been MY students. That could have been ME.

I wrote the first part of this piece after the Parkland shooting. It’s crude, blunt, stylistically choppy, but I felt it captured the emotions of the moment. Don’t get me wrong. I’m still enraged by the impotence of our elected leaders. But after witnessing their failure to act after Parkland, something else is there, too. I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but it feels like despair. Or perhaps it’s resignation to the fact that our leaders will do nothing to protect your children—my students.

How did it come to this?

Part 3: Love and Fear

Growing up in the church, I remember my pastor fervently preaching about the importance “dying to ourselves” and “daily taking up the cross of Jesus.” At the time, I believed he was speaking in metaphors. He probably did, too. Now, I’m not so sure.

It’s an odd feeling going to work everyday, wondering if today is the day I will be called upon to take a bullet for my class.

Saint John once wrote that perfect love casts out fear. I beg to differ.

I love my students. I would die for them without a second’s hesitation. Yet, I’m terrified.

And this is wrong.

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