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A teacher struggles to face students after the Texas school massacre

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The shooting rampage at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, has certainly left much of the country reeling. But for many teachers, well, it was tough to face students the next day.

LINDSAY VACAREZA: There was kind of that darker mood, definite feeling of just the sadness aspect of it and the fact that, you know, young lives are taken and there's no real solution to this problem right now.

MARTIN: That's Lindsay Vacareza (ph). She teaches fifth grade at Larson Elementary in Lodi, Calif.

VACAREZA: It's very surreal to have to speak to a group of, like, 9 and 10-year-olds about what to do if someone came on campus that was a threat to them or actively shooting, and how to protect yourself if you're outside of my classroom in the bathroom. Like, it's a very awkward conversation to have because you don't, as a teacher and an adult, want to say too much to where they're coming to school every day terrified. But you also need to say enough to where they know how to prepare themselves if that really were a real situation to happen.

MARTIN: Vacareza says school shootings are all too common. And in the years since she's been teaching, that threat has changed a lot about the school environment.

VACAREZA: We used to be able to leave our classroom doors open inside the building to where you could have kids come in and out and interact with other classrooms. We would be able to have our back door into our, like, locked courtyard open. And now everything is fully locked at all times. So as soon as my students and I are in my classroom, our door is closed and it is locked. And that's the way that it goes for all of our classrooms here on campus.

MARTIN: She told us that she and the other teachers discuss safety as well.

VACAREZA: We've - as a staff here have talked about what we can do inside of our own classrooms besides just with, you know, quieting the kids, getting them away from the windows, turning the lights off, covering any, like, windows or glass, but also, like, grabbing the fire extinguisher.

MARTIN: And that usually leads to a larger, more heated debate. Should teachers be armed?

VACAREZA: So it is unnerving thinking about the fact that I have 30 kids that I need to protect and keep safe every single day. But arming myself would be my last resort.

MARTIN: Despite apprehension about being armed herself, Vacareza thinks someone on campus should be armed.

VACAREZA: I, as a parent - my own children go to the same school that I teach at - I would feel that an armed guard, some type of resource officer on campus every day would be an asset to the community.

MARTIN: Vacareza also says teachers should receive more training to deal with the threat of school shootings.

VACAREZA: The other thing is I've never really been trained formally on what to do inside of the classroom or inside of my own school building, if this should happen. So, I mean, I feel like with more and more of these horrible things happening, we do need to be more prepared in a different way, any kind of training. A police officer with the PD and our resource officer came to speak to our staff. It was probably four or five years ago. And we've never had any more conversations formally about it since then. So it definitely needs to be a conversation that happens more often.

MARTIN: Whatever happens, she says, teachers need to be a bigger part of the decision making.

VACAREZA: A lot of the people that make the decisions at the district level or the state level or even sometimes the federal level, they are not in the classrooms. They don't know what it's like here on a day-to-day basis. So I think it's really important that teachers should be included in a lot of the conversations.

MARTIN: That was Lindsay Vacareza. She's a fifth grade teacher in Lodi, Calif. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.