Teachers react day after Texas school shooting.

Photo illustration of empty classroom desks; a mother mourning with her child outside of a shooting at an elementary school in Ulvade, Texas; and backpacks near a classroom door at an elementary school near Ulvade, Texas.

By Anna Brand
May 25, 2022

Teachers around the country woke up on a school day the morning after the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. 

One sat in her classroom during lunch in tears. Another watched students “like a hawk” every time the door creaked open. And a teacher of 40 years now thinks of his school as a war zone. 

Responsible for far more than the education of their students, educators across the country are once again on the front lines of crisis. 

We asked teachers in the U.S.: What do you want to say in the wake of the Uvalde shooting? Here’s what they wrote to us. (Some of the submissions have been edited for space and clarity.)

This morning when I arrived at work I heard a distinct difference in the sound of children's voices and laughter coming from our school's playground and field. I remained outside the building for a few extra minutes to prepare myself for what I knew would be a difficult day ahead.

— Karen Chappell / Saddle Brooke, N.J.

Check on your teacher friends. We are not okay. Getting shot should not be an "occupational hazard" for teachers, and definitely not for students. We aren't even paid a livable wage, yet every single one of us goes above and beyond for these kids every day, and I guarantee every single teacher would lay down their life for their students if it came down to it.

— Laura G. / Dallas

I sat in my classroom during my lunch break and cried. I’m both a first grade teacher at my school and a parent of two students in elementary school. I’m so emotionally exhausted from feeling afraid of sending my own kids to school, let alone teaching at a school, too. The worst part for me is knowing we were all just holding our collective breath, waiting for this to happen again, and hoping we weren’t the unlucky ones.

— Anna McDonnell / Honolulu

As a teacher, I am expected to teach your child, but only certain topics in certain ways. As a teacher, I’m supposed to keep my opinions out of the classroom. Not this time. 

— Victoria Carnevale / Dracut, Mass.

My last few days were supposed to be bittersweet. I would spend time with my graduating 8th graders, sign yearbooks, watch movies and send them off to high school. Now all I feel is fear. My last few days are now spent watching students like a hawk, cringing every time a student opens the door to let someone into the class, worried that I won’t be able to go home to my 3-month-old daughter.

— Tyler Santana / Tampa, Fla.

Ever since the Columbine school shooting I feel a sense of innocence has been lost in schools. Once again I had to explain to 7th graders about the tragedy in Texas and to see fear in my students eyes. I personally feel exhausted from this tragedy and disgusted at our politicians who remain silent! 

— Anthony Vetrano / Cortland, N.Y.

As my students watched a movie, I had to step into my storage room to compose myself as I kept getting reports of the news.

— Michelle O. / Riverview, Fla.

We had our first post-Covid assembly last week to honor and recognize all that we had missed over the past few years. While I should have been paying attention and celebrating, the entire time I was monitoring entry/exit points, keeping an eye on students with backpacks milling around the side walls of the gym, and running through active shooter scenarios in my head.

— Matt Keenan / Missoula, Montana

I have taught for 40 years. Never would have I believed that after I started teaching in 1980 my number one priority would have to be safety. It is unfathomable to think that this is a movie I relive. Schools were meant to be safety zones not war zones.

— James Percoco / Ashburn, Va.

As a 22-year veteran middle school teacher I no longer think “that always happens somewhere else.” Rather, I now think it's just a matter of time. I now ask myself, “Will I retire before it happens on my campus?”

— Kevin Niendorf / Manteca, Calif.

I came into school today with a brave face for the students when inside I am wondering how we got here. How many more times does this type of tragedy have to happen before we are going to take action?

— Diane Z. / Red Hook, N.Y.

The culture war that is tearing the U.S. apart has a bloody front line and it’s in the schools where innocent children are being butchered by a society that is losing its ability to tell the difference between right and wrong.

— Karl Waage / Arvada, Colo.

I am devastated and angry. I cried all the way to school in the morning. Seeing my students' faces and the joy they still have for coming to school got me through the day.

— Kirsten A. / Leesburg, Va.

It’s shocking how numb you feel after hearing tragic news of children being slaughtered in a place where they are meant to be safe.

— Jenna G. / Scranton, Penn.

All day I have been imagining what I would do if someone came into my room with a gun today. Would I get them to safety in time? Would they see each other die? Get shot? Would they see me die or get shot?

— Madeline S. / Santa Cruz, Calif.

Sigh.... I..um. I must “soldier on,” right? Isn't that what I have to do?

— Kayalyn Stewart / Mount Vernon, Wash.