We were talking in class today about mask-wearing and risk assessment, and at one point we transitioned to my feeling a responsibility to wear a mask to protect my students, in much the same way that at the start of every semester, when I walk into a new classroom, I take a minute to figure out what I’d do in an active shooter situation.

Are there windows I can throw a chair through to break, so the kids can get out? Is there a desk I can shove up against the door while shouting to the kids, “Get behind me!!!”

(In my head, yes, I’m apparently a 6’4″ marine sergeant, instead of a 5’0″ middle-aged woman with no fighting skills. Shh. Moving past that…)

The funny thing was that they started to think about that too, and freak out a little, and then I realized they were freaking out, so I had to quickly rein them in and remind them that:


It’s one of our worst things. We’ll get totally fixated and spiral in on something incredibly unlikely, while at the same time blithely ignoring the much greater risks all around us.

I told the students they should stop thinking about active shooters on campus entirely, as it was incredibly unlikely that they’d ever encounter one. They were MUCH more likely to get killed in a car accident on the drive into campus, and if they’d like to do something to reduce risk, they should practice leaving their phone in their backpack in the back seat, so they weren’t tempted to text and drive. Also, making sure they had health insurance wasn’t the worst idea.

They were nodding by that point, so I’m hopeful I convinced them. And then we went back to discussing masking and risk assessment in the plague years…

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