Florida

Teachers have enough stress. Arming them will only make it worse — much worse

On March 24, 2018, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, the scene of a mass shooting Feb. 14, 2018, were joined by more than 800,000 people as they marched in a nationwide protest demanding sensible gun control laws. Many of the students do not want their teachers to be armed. On May 8, 2019, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law that allows teachers to be armed in classrooms of public schools in the state.
On March 24, 2018, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, the scene of a mass shooting Feb. 14, 2018, were joined by more than 800,000 people as they marched in a nationwide protest demanding sensible gun control laws. Many of the students do not want their teachers to be armed. On May 8, 2019, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law that allows teachers to be armed in classrooms of public schools in the state. TNS

The first time I heard about arming our classroom teachers to help keep our children safe, I thought it was a desperate reaction to the too many school shootings and that it would soon fade away. I was wrong. It seems some people think this is what we need to keep our children safe in school.

How can placing a gun in the hands of teachers, who are already strapped with too many burdens, help keep our children safe in the classroom? I can’t believe that anyone would think that giving them a gun would ease their already stress-filled school days.

Yet Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill earlier in May that allows teachers to be armed in classrooms of public schools throughout Florida. The bill was one of the most contentious bills of the 2019 Legislative session.

Teachers are a special breed. Many graduate from college knowing that it will take years to pay off their student loans. They know that they will be underpaid for educating our children, helping them to climb the stairway to success. Yet, they do it anyway.

The teachers I know so love their jobs and the children they serve, that they often go into their own pockets to purchase supplies to help their students learn to their fullest.

And unlike many other professionals, their workday doesn’t end when the last school bell rings. There are papers to read, grades to record and conferences with parents to arrange. Many have families; some are single parents struggling with their own issues.

Some of the students’ parents can pose another problem, especially those who believe their child can do no wrong.

Who can say that placing even more stress on our teachers would not cause some of them to break under the pressure? While they work miracles with our children, we must realize that our teachers are only human and can only take so much.

As I write this, my mind goes back to the wonderful teachers in my life. They served as our parents away from home. One of them, Georgiana Johnson Bethel, is still alive. Mrs. Bethel taught business at Booker T. Washington Junior/Senior High School. I can still see her standing in the doorway of her classroom, waiting for the last student to pass through and take a seat.

She was young and pretty, and many a boy had a schoolboy crush on her. Girls wanted to grow up to be like her — to have her poise and elegance. Back then, teachers not only had to go out-of-pocket for supplies, but they were expected to dress a certain way to lead by example.

We watched our teachers closely. I remember how we wanted to look like the female teachers, while the male teachers went about setting examples for the boys — by tucking in their shirts, and many wearing neckties to class. I can only imagine how our principal would have reacted to a boy coming to school with his pants hanging below his buttocks.

We were taught by our parents to take care of what we had. Our teachers enforced that. Washing the shoestrings to our saddle oxfords became a nightly ritual, as was polishing and buffing our shoes.

I learned to sew, making skirts out of 50-cent-a-yard fabric bought from McCrory’s Five and Dime store in downtown Miami, and taught by a kind neighbor, the late Birdie Lawrence, before I ever took a sewing class at school.

We were raised in a village — from the home and neighborhood to the school — with teachers playing an enormous role.

From time to time, there would be disrespectful children in the classroom. In our black schools, nearly all the classrooms were crowded. So, in addition to having to educate us, teachers had to keep order in the classroom, not easy in classes of 30 to 35.

Nowadays, teachers are faced with more than just unruly children. Teachers must deal with bullying and depression, as well as understanding children who are troubled by abuse, homelessness and hunger. They must work hard to keep their schools up to par — helping them earn the accolade of an “A” school.

And now, because of the awful tragedy that happened last year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Senior High School, the Florida Legislature has amended provisions of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, signed into law last year after the mass shootings that killed 17 students and faculty members.

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Flanked by Parkland parents and students, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a gun-safety measure championed by students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in March. The act requires a safe-school officer in every school and provided $67 million to school districts to use that money to train and arm school personnel who weren’t classroom teachers. In May, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law, passed by the Florida Legislature, that will allow Florida public schools to arm teachers. Mark Wallheiser AP

Miami-Dade School Board Member Dr. Steve Gallon III is opposed to arming teachers. In his recent newsletter, he wrote: “One significant amendment related to a school district’s participation in the Coach Aaron Feis (he was killed in the MSD shooting) Guardian Program, is to meet the requirement of establishing a safe school officer.

“This provision would allow for individuals, including teachers, to serve as school guardians and therefore be armed. … As a lifelong educator and one who strongly believes in the sanctity of the classroom, I vehemently oppose arming teachers in the classroom.“

The Broward County School Board has already voted against arming classroom teachers in its schools. At the June 19 School Board meeting Gallon, who represents District 1, will oppose arming teachers in Miami-Dade Public Schools.

“Leadership requires that we take an affirmative, public stand on this critically important issue which continues to cause a level of consternation in schools, classrooms, and in the eye of the public. An act of formal opposition as a Board will clearly convey our rejection of the idea of arming teachers in Miami Dade County Public Schools,” Gallon has said.

I am with Gallon.

Please, let us not give our teachers a club (or gun) to crack their own heads.

Shavuot Eve celebration

Temple Emanu-El will celebrate Shavuot Eve — Revelation Night, the Giving of the Torah more than 3,000 years ago, at 9 p.m. June 8 at the temple, 101 Washington Ave., Miami Beach.

Shavuot represents the Giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, when God gave Moses the 10 Commandments, 49 days after Passover and the Exodus from Egypt. But as the children of Israel were preparing for the event, they overslept and Moses had to wake them.

For this reason, the temple will host a late-night study at the synagogue, and food for the holiday will be served — blintzes, baked ziti, lasagna and cheesecake. Admission is free. Call 305-538-2503 or visit https://www.tesobe.org/

Holocaust Institute

The 18th Annual Holocaust Teacher Institute will be June 11-14 at the UM-Newman Alumni Center, 6200 San Amaro Dr. in Coral Gables.

Dr. Miriam Klein Kassenoff, a Holocaust educator, will direct the Institute, presented by the University of Miami School of Education and Human Development and Miami Dade Public Schools.

In addition to Kassenoff, the speakers will include Christina Chavarria, program coordinator of the Levine Institute for Holocaust Education at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum; Professor Dr. Michael Berenbaum, a Holocaust scholar; Dr. Mary Johnson, senior educator, Facing History and Ourselves; and Dr. Kori Street, USC-Shoah Foundation.

The institute is free and open to the public through Thursday (June 13). The Friday session is open only to teachers.

For information call Alissa Pardo Stein at 305-778-1292, or email alissa.stein@gmail.com

Classical concert in Miami Shores

Lovers of great music will be happy to know that The Performer’s Music Institute will present its annual Students of Voice Recital at 7 p.m. Saturday (June 8) at Miami Shores Community Church, United Church of Christ, 9823 NE Fourth Ave.

The program will include vocal selections from opera, musical theater, art songs and popular music.

The performers are Miguel Llerena, tenor; Jennifer Maer, mezzo-soprano; Sasha Portocarrero, soprano; Melissa Ruiz, light-lyric soprano; Jose Vazquez, baritone; and Michael Zlatkin, bass. The singers will be accompanied by pianists Gregory Szeto and Jared Perounce.

Admission is free. Call 305-75-7725 for more information.

Remembering the Middle Passage

The annual sunrise Ancestral Remembrance of the Middle Passage ceremony will be from 5:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. June 8 at the Historic Virginia Key Beach Park, 4020 Virginia Beach Dr., just off the Rickenbacker Causeway and before the Bear Cut Bridge to Key Biscayne.

According to Dinizulu Gene Tinnie, this year’s ceremony takes on added significance because 2019 marks the 400th anniversary of the fateful 1619 arrival of the first “20 and odd” captive Africans in British-occupied Native North America, in the colony of Virginia.

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In this 2007 file photo, Gene Tinnie helps lead others in the Middle Passage ceremony. About 70 people gathered at a sunrise ceremony marking the ancestral remembrance of the Middle Passage, in which countless African slaves died en route to the Western Hemisphere. Carl Juste The Miami Herald

This is the 28th year that the Miami community has honored the memory of all the millions who endured the unspeakable horrors of the Middle Passage, as the slave trade was known.

The ceremony will remember those who died even before they could be sold to the ships, between the point of their capture and their imprisonment in coastal dungeons and warehouses, and the untold numbers who perished at sea. It will also honor those who survived to give life to future generations, Tinnie said.

The ceremony is open to the community.

Last year, I took my two great-grandsons, Jaylen and Tavaris, to the ceremony. I encourage all parents to make the sacrifice to get up before dawn and expose their children to this moving ceremony.

The program will include a Native American opening blessing, followed by a traditional African pouring of libation, prayers from diverse cultures, performances and drumming. The service will conclude with offerings of fruits, vegetables and flowers to be carried out to sea as a symbolic offering to the many who nearly starved on their way to these shores. The ceremony will conclude with informal family gatherings, fellowship and sharing of refreshments.

If you go, feel free to wear white. There is no admission charge.

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