Honor Eva Mireles and Irma Garcia
Let us support teachers who care for our children
Eva Mireles and Irma Garcia of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX, USA, were co-teachers in a room that turned into a killing field on Tuesday 24 May 2022.
I never talked with them, and they were killed in the slaughter; so I can’t be sure about their intentions, but I’m pretty sure they—like most teachers I’ve known—were doing what they thought was in the best interests of their students on that day. They were hoping to help their students to grow—whether using evidence-based methods or whatver—and succeed.
When a man with a weapon entered their classroom and began shooting, I bet they did what they thought best to protect their students, the many children who were killed in that classroom. I bet they took seriously a teachers’ responsibilty for keeping children safe.
But, as we now know, their efforts failed. Even if they used their own bodies to shield their students from gunfire, it didn’t work. They are dead; their students are dead... and the situation could not have been the version of teaching that some imagine.
I fear that many people think teaching is easy. A teacher just tells students what to do—of course, in an engaging and compelling way—and students do whatever the teacher says. The students say, “Wow! That’s cool! Let’s do it!” “Let’s do long division! Whoopee!” “Let’s write an essay on Thomas Jefferson!” Kids are inspired, eager, and productive. Not.
That’s a shallow version of teaching. There’s a lot more to it. Not many teachers have to collect lunch money these days, but they still have to report attendance. They still have to teach students what to do with their devices. And they still should teach their students what to do in an emergency such as a fire drill or, uh-oh, an active shooter situation! And then comes the content!
When I taught college classes about classroom and behavior management for prospective teachers, I routinely said (early in the semester) that we needed to be prepared for an untoward situation. If I got a notice about, for example, a shooter on the UVA Grounds (i.e., “campus”), I was going to go into full-on directive mode:
If there was an emergency, I expected that students would follow my directions right away;
If I told them to help drag sidebords, tables, and chairs to block a door, I wanted them to do so quickly;
If I told them to stay away from doors and windows, even though I was not staying away, I wanted them to do so.
If I told them to lie on the floor, I wanted them to do so and slither away from the doors and windows.
And then I went back over previous reminders that, as teachers, they would some day be responsible for the safety of other people’s children. I implored my students to think ahead to the time when they would be the leader in a classroom. What would be their plans under those circumstances?
Given these fraught times in the USA’s education over the past many years of school shooting history, I suspect that Mss. Mireles and Garcia had discussed emergency plans. I even suspect that they had discussed emergency actions with their students. But I am sad that I am pretty damn sure that they died doing what they could to protect their students.
I wish that we, the populace of the USA, had done more to support Ms. Mireles and Ms. Garcia before Tuesday. Laws about what books to assign, what topics to discuss, what words to use in the classroom did not support them. I don’t know what their views were on critical race theory or evolution.
I have to bet, though, that they gave a damn about their students. And, we should give a damn about them.
And, so, I shall hold a candle for Eva Mireles and Irma Garcia.