So, you've decided to talk about guns, rights, and society with your middle or high school students. I commend you as a Deep South child of a hunter, as a social studies teacher, and as a person who was shot long ago by a fellow 16 year old showing off a handgun to impress a friend.
I don't do the usual gun control issue tack, (but if you want to do that, I have a good Socratic seminar start for you linked below) I tease out more"life advice" than "political stance". I like to get students thinking deeply about social issues and how those social issues relate to our personal lives.
I start with my scar. I tell my "getting shot story" to my students every year for a few reasons. It's a good story, it serves as a cautionary tale to guard against several common mistakes teenagers make, and , honestly, my scar gives me some street cred with my classes. Plus maybe it helps them see me as human, and gives them a moment of respect for the awesome gift and ephemeral frailty of life of all of us, which I can tell you for sure is a great way to help students pop out of their own self protective modes and realize the important life altering work that learning truly is.
My friend and social studies teaching idol Mrs Stevenson has a scar from cancer. I often wonder if the scar lends a sense of humanity to her as a teacher that helps students love her, because love her they do. I know my scar lends humanity to me.
My "Getting Shot Story" FAQ:
Did it hurt?
Usually when someone asks this, someone else in class chides them for asking a dumb question so this is a great point to bring up the failure of intuition and a little biology, because no, it didn't hurt. It knocked me to the ground but the rug burn from the carpet hurt worse. (then I explain shock)
Why aren't you dead?
Because I am lucky. Then I explain about the relativity of luck and the way you can frame an issue from your own perspective and choose to be optimistic or pessimistic. Because although it sounds odd for someone who's been shot clean through the shoulder to say they are lucky. In fact I was full of self pity for the strapless prom dresses I would never wear when my ER nurse breezed into my room, flung open my curtains and basically told me to get over myself "I got shot in 'Nam" he said. There was no pity. This was just life. That was a good lesson. I kind of hated him right then, but he is right. I am lucky. The bullet missed hitting a major artery by ONE MILLIMETER. It chipped my collarbone but did not break it. Nor did the bullet flatten like it was supposed to, like it was designed to do. It tore through close enough the the heat sealed my veins shut and was far enough from me that I didn't get powder burn.
Are you mad?
I was mad, but now I feel more sorry for the kid who did it. I got a cool scar, a cool story, insurance money that paid for college. He has to remember he shot someone for the rest of his life. He could have lost his parents their house. He could have gone to jail. He could have killed me. An instant of showing off, of not thinking, of assuming nearly ended his life and mine. He's lucky, too, but I would never trade places with him in a million years. If my students learn anything from my story, I hope they learn not to be him.
Maybe today it just got a little easier to avoid gun violence. So more kids can be lucky - potential victims of course, but potential accidental shooters, too.
Thank you Mr. Obama from me and from all of my students over my 25 years of teaching who, after I tell my story and show the scars the .45 automatic hollow point bullet left in my shoulder, reciprocate by pulling up their shirt or rolling up their pants legs and show me their bullet scars.
There have been too many. Every year.
Middle School Lesson Plan Socratic Seminar Gun Control
I am Lisa Gurthie the PD facilitator at Piedmont IB Middle School. She specializes in tech and arts integration, interdisciplinary, holistic education, and unschooling school to make it more real and relevant. One day I will modernize my "about" page. Check out the other blogs on this site for Lesson Ideas, Celebration of Good Teaching, and Piedmont PD