An Unteachable Moment

An Unteachable Moment

Patricia Dischino, Brunswick Forest

Author: Patricia Dischino

It was almost time for the bell to ring but the chatter in the teachers’ room was quite intense. Margo Lerner spoke enthusiastically to anyone who would listen. The year is 2025.

“Isn’t it wonderful that all teachers are armed with guns. The brick wall outside is a fortress. Plus, you need a code to even get into the school. I feel so safe.” Melanie Wadsworth looked at Margo with disparagement. “If you think you are safer now, you are sadly mistaken. Do you know how many teachers are purposely not returning because they don’t want to carry a gun? I’m one of them.”

Margo was quite taken back. “Melanie, you were teacher of the year in the whole state. The kids love you. You will lose much of your pension and health benefits. Are you crazy? We are so safe now.” Melanie shot back. “If you think you are safer now, you are sadly mistaken.” The conversations were divided and intense as other teachers joined in the discussion.

Everyone picked up his or her gear as the bell rang for the onset of the school day. The teachers were in a foul mood as a divisive atmosphere clouded a previously amicable staff. Students lined up according to grade level, in front of the school entrance. It was almost the end of the year. Lots of fun things were planned. Field Day and Color War were always a high point of the last weeks of school. Then there was the anticipation of moving up to the next grade or even advancing to middle school. Graduation was a week away

Last summer all the security work was completed. Melanie felt now, that the school was dark and lacked warmth. Windows faced a courtyard surrounded by ten-foot brick walls. Previously, sunlight streamed into the windows with views of trees and greenery.  In her heart she was teaching in a diminished environment.

Sixth grade was her domain and she adored her students. However, this year, the children were repeating conversations they heard at home. There were more student fights than ever before. Melanie would not return next year to a career to which she was truly devoted.


The usual morning announcements that came across from the intercom had not even begun when the principal spoke. It was obvious he was trying to appear calm but fear was evident. 

“There has been an ongoing mass shooting at the regional high school. There are multiple injuries and deaths. The gunman is still at large. Teachers, please have your students sit down against a wall where they cannot be seen. Kindergarten teachers have your children go into the bathrooms. Everyone remain sequestered in locked rooms until you hear from me.”

All complied, while terror reigned. The lockdown lasted over two hours. Fortunately for the elementary school, the gunman was killed on the high school grounds. Thirty students, six teachers and the security guard were killed, Eleven students were injured, one paralyzed for life. How did the gunman reach so many? The answer is quite simple. Students were still in the hall and not in the  classrooms. The teachers were in their rooms with doors open to allow students to enter.

How did the gunman gain access to a fortified school and armed teachers? One of the teacher’s sons had a horrific fight with his parents. He accessed his mother’s computer contacts and found the code. The young man waited till late at night, entering the building carrying his automatic weapon with abundant ammunition, used the code, and lay in wait to commit his atrocious crime.

The fortification was worthless. The armed teachers had no opportunity. They were doing what is expected of teachers. Teach!