I Refuse to Be An Armed Teacher

I have been getting asked more and more whether or not I, as a teacher, would be willing to have a gun (either on me or locked in my classroom) in case of a shooting at school. But this has gone beyond people here and there asking what I think. Recently several politicians (you know who they are…right?) have publicly stated that arming teachers will put an end to the mass shootings that have been experienced by over 150,000 American students since Columbine in 1999. Yes, I specifically heard them say teachers. They are not talking about having police or armed guards in schools, that’s a different topic.

We are getting mixed signals. Teachers are told not to break up or get in the middle of a fist fight. “Call the administrator or school officer” we are told. And yet, it seems that many people outside of schools are saying that we should be breaking up school shootings. This would be significantly more dangerous. So which is it? Stay out of dangerous situations and wait for trained professionals or get yourself in there and risk getting injured (or worse…)?

So here is my response to whether or not teachers should be armed: NO. Here’s why.

1. There are plenty of teachers that have mental health issues. A lot of them. Some have full blown illnesses such as bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety disorders, etc. Others are just stressed to the max. Either way, as a group our mental well being isn’t the most stable. And that’s easily understandable given the difficult climate of education right now. We are not talking about issues that would stop us from being able to teach, but we also keep saying that guns shouldn’t be in the hands of people with mental issues. So if teachers with mental illness are not able to carry guns, will that affect their ability to get hired? What if all the teachers in the school have some kind of mental issue? Then that school just doesn’t get protected? 

2. Where will the time to train and practice for these scenarios come from? I have heard the argument that “police don’t train that much either”, but I don’t think that’s any excuse. So let’s say that teachers have to do annual training. Assuming this country is not asking us to give up our precious, already limited time with our families and friends, this would have to be time we are currently devoting to teaching. Is that really the best use of our professional development time? What will  we be giving up in order to make time for this? Will this mean we are less concerned about preparing our kids for post-secondary education or The Almighty Tests? I’m not a police officer. I’ve never even shot a gun. But I know there is a big difference between practice shooting at the range and training for an event like we are experiencing in American schools. This would not be a one time training and then hope your skills are sharp if/when you need them. So either we are asking teachers to give up more of their personal time, give up time in the classroom, or give up professional development time that would otherwise be used to make us better educators.  If this country is truly concerned about our education system pumping out kids who are prepared for adulthood, I’m not sure which of those options is going to get us there. 

*And please note here, I am not saying that teachers who want to carry their gun or have a gun locked away at school are in the wrong. I have talked with many teachers who have expressed they would be comfortable and willing to do it. They are typically teachers who already own guns and are comfortable using them. But I don’t think we can rely on that. Again, what if there’s a school where no one volunteers to be “that” teacher? Does that school just have to go without the same protective measures that others are getting? Will “are you comfortable being ‘that’ teacher?” be on applications now?

3.Teachers are biased. We have relationships with our students. It is one of the best, and yet most difficult, things about being a teacher. Often times, the shooters are current or former students of the school under attack. If a teacher has to put their head around a corner and decide whether or not to shoot the kid walking down the hall, that will be an incredibly difficult decision. What if it’s a kid who was in the bathroom when the lockdown started and now they are frantically jiggling door handles trying to find a room to hide in? What if they are actually the shooter? In the second or two it may take the teacher to decide whether or not to pull the trigger, it may be too late. Can you imagine the mental trauma a teacher will walk around with for the rest of their life if they shoot the wrong kid? Not to mention that the actual shooter is still active. Or what if the shooter is a student we had a bond with and we wait too long to make that decision? If teachers wanted to put themselves in a position of deciding whether or not to shoot people, we would have gone into some type of law enforcement. Assuming that because a teacher goes to the shooting range as a hobby or is a hunter they will be able to make these on the spot decisions is ignorant.

4. Public schools are government facilities and should be protected as other government facilities are. No one is asking lawyers or judges to carry guns in courthouses. Senators and their staff don’t protect the capitol building themselves. Why should teachers/principals/custodians have to? I have spent time at a government research facility. Just to get into the visitor center, we had to go through metal detectors, have our bags searched, have our IDs scanned, be on a guest list, and have a guest pass on us (all of which was after your car was searched at the parking lot gate). Now I’m not saying this is what needs to happen at every school around the country. But I am pointing out that there is a HUGE discrepancy in how we protect different facilities. There are certainly other steps we could take to protect schools instead of arming teachers. There is a reason that different careers have different job descriptions. No one person can do it all. We don’t ask police officers to offer counseling sessions to the people they arrest. We don’t ask judges to educate people about the harmful effects of drugs. We delegate these tasks and all work together. But for some reason, people think teachers can do it all. 

5. To me, the biggest issue is that arming teachers or principals or custodians or any other human in a school, if it goes correctly and according to plan, will only protect schools. The deadliest mass shooting in modern US history was at a concert venue in Las Vegas. The shooter in this event killed 58 innocent people. Roughly a year prior to that, nearly 50 people were killed in a shooting at an Orlando nightclub. Another 20 people were killed at their Sunday morning church service in Sutherland Springs, TX. We can’t arm schools and just hope for the best everywhere else. It’s just not fair. Yes, schools are government facilities, and should be protected as such. But we should also be doing something to stop these shootings from happening no matter what the location. I’ve heard many people say that arming teachers isn’t just about stopping an in-progress shooting, but scaring shooters off in the first place. “These shooters are cowards and want an easy target.” But what about all the other “easy” targets? If given the chance, they will still cause harm somewhere else. They’re not just going to see teachers armed, hang up their gun and call it a day. 

6. Last but not least, I would just like to point out that when someone outside of education tells teachers they need to be armed, it feels a lot like saying that teachers aren’t trying hard enough. And maybe this is just me being sensitive. But the fact that people think I, as a teacher, am the solution means that whatever I am doing right now isn’t good enough. People are suggesting that I’m not doing “everything I possibly can” to protect those students in my room. That honestly brings tears to my eyes. And that may  not be what these people think they are suggesting. They may think it’s just that: “a suggestion”. But what it really says it that somehow, it has become the teachers’ responsibilities to take on this gigantic, societal problem. We often have to buy our own supplies, give up time with our families and friends to work on what we have to get done, stress over whether or not we are doing enough to help each and every kid (not just academically), and now we are also being asked to stop shootings. I have to admit I am more than a little hurt and insulted. When is someone else (or something else- looking at you government) going to step up and take this one off our plates? There are a LOT of other possible solutions to this mass shooting epidemic we are in the middle of. We have to look at the options and throw out the bad ones. Focus our time and energy on solutions that are logical, possible, and will address the problem as a whole; not just one piece of it. Arming teachers is an option. But it’s not a good one.

I do appreciate you hearing me out. If you haven’t done so already, register to vote and be in frequent contact with your legislators (at all levels) no matter what you think the solution is. They need to know what we think. Having arguments on social media or writing blog posts is a great way to put your ideas out there, but these ideas need to go to the people that can do something about it. At the end of the day, we are all in this crisis together and have to keep the discussion going to come up with a solution. Feel free to leave civilized comments, I would love to hear your perspective.

Thanks for stopping by.


Are You Ready To Save Money??

As promised…. I have a gift for you!

Just to recap- because I love all my readers and FB likers so much, I am giving you a code that gets you $5 off EVERY SINGLE PIECE you buy from Megan Rusek’s LulaRoe group starting Wednesday, November 8th through Friday, November 10th (2017!). If you know and love LulaRoe, great! If you’ve never tried it… now’s the time! If it’s not for you… what about your adorable kids? Why not, it’s on sale? =)


“Get to the code, Mikos.” OK- here it is: Refuse to Reinvent the Wheel appreciates me. Send Megan a message with that code and you get $5 off all the Lula.

DON’T FORGET! I will be raffling off LulaRoe gift cards on my Facebook page all week… If you haven’t already “liked” it, get to it to be eligible to win!

Thanks again so much for all of your support!

It’s Almost Giveaway Time!


I am so very thankful that anyone wants to read what I write. I appreciate all of the teachers out there who give me their feedback, collaborate, and inspire me. As a small token of my gratitude, I have posted a giveaway on my Facebook page at Thanksgiving the past 2 years. (BTW- if you haven’t checked out and “liked” my Facebook page, stop on by! I am much more active there because I have time to write 1 sentence much more often than full blog posts. Click here!)

The past 2 years I raffled off custom lanyard keychains in the winner’s school colors. This year, I’m upping my game! A friend of mine recently started selling LulaRoe…. she is married to a teacher, so we can trust her. 😉 She has agreed to do a LulaRoe sale sponsored by Refuse to Reinvent the Wheel. Ok, I know. I’m giving you the opportunity to spend money…. that’s the opposite of a raffle.

Stay. With. Me.

For the 3 days of the sale (November 8-10, mark your calendars), I will have a “discount phrase” posted here on my blog. If you send her a message with that code, you will get $5 off EVERY PIECE you buy!! AAANNNNDDDDD- I will be raffling off TWO gift certificates for LulaRoe from Megan Rusek on my Facebook page (seriously, go like it now!). So there, that’s how much I love you! =)

In Conclusion : If you haven’t seen/liked me Facebook page, here it is. Go join Megan Rusek’s LulaRoe Facebook group so that you’re ready when the big day comes. Mark your calendars for the LulaCash giveaways and sale on November 8-10.

As always, THANKS for stopping by! =)

My Journey to Techiness…



I make no claims at being tech-savy, but I’m not afraid to give something new a shot. The tech in my classroom is completely trial and error (of course, the kids think I’ve got it all under control). This post is basically what I’ve learned over the last couple years as far as integrating technology…. Feel free to ask questions and make suggestions in the comments!
My district gave me a set of iPads last year. I spent a LOT of time finding ways to use them, both for myself and the kids, that were actually enrichment and not just something cool to look at. What we discovered was that the iPads weren’t the best option in our situation. I know a lot of teachers use and love them, but they just weren’t what I was looking for. They weren’t easy to manage (always needing updates that we had to on a device-by-device basis), expensive (comparatively speaking), and NO FLASH! That was the deal breaker for me. I have friends who work in the tech world and are die-hard Apple fans who tell me no one uses flash anymore. That may be true, but so many of the simulations and games that I love the kids to use DO run on flash.
So now my district is all about Chromebooks. Honestly, I don’t have a lot of experience with them yet since I still have a PC laptop in my room. But the kids are using them, so that’s where I’m getting my opinions from. They are fast to load up and login and seem pretty easy to use. There’s no page-up or page-down buttons, but I guess the can live with that…
What I feel like I’ve learned the most about is Googledrive. Most of you are probably pretty familiar with it by now (seems like most schools are using it), so I’ll finish this post with my thoughts and suggestions about Googleforms. This is what I’ve been using to do my tests and quizzes online instead of on paper. It is a function of Googledrive, just create a form instead of a document.
Pros: 1. It makes grading quick. I use the add-on “Flubaroo” and that will grade it for you (but it’s not perfect, see below). 2. The kids like getting to use the computer whenever possible. 3. It saves trees! 4. It helps them prepare for all the online testing the is undoubtably coming their way.
Cons: 1. Flubaroo only can grade an exact right or wrong answer. It works great for true/false, multiple choice, or fill in the blank (as long as they spell it right, but you can run spell check on their answers prior to grading if you want). Anything else you still have to grade yourself. 2. God help you if the Internet goes out. I usually have a paper copy on hand just in case and make someone go run to the office for copies last minute. 3. You cannot copy and paste whole questions from another source. So you have to basically rewrite your entire existing test. That takes forever.  4. My kids only negative feedback is that they can’t circle a question to come back to later, which some like to do.

In my opinion though, the pros outweigh the cons. And I feel it’s going to be a requirement soon anyway, so may as well work out the bugs now.

Here are my final tips on implementing online assessments using Googleforms.
1. You have to email them the link to take the test. They have to check their email, not Googledrive.
2. Make sure you uncheck the box that says “include form in email”. This way once they are done they can’t pull up the email and show it to someone in another class. They will have to actually click a link to take them to another page (which you can shut down once they are done).
3. Change the theme on your form to something colorful. This way it is very easy to see who is on the test and who is on another page. I sit in the back of the room with a clear shot of all of their screens until they are all finished. The picture at the top of this post is what my room looked like during a final exam.
4. Have the “Responses” page open on your computer while they are taking it. You will be able to see their responses coming in to make sure they all come through before they log off. Once in a blue moon someone’s gets lost in cyber land and if they’ve already shut down, they have to redo the whole thing.
5. I usually will hand out a paper word bank too. Most of them say it’s helpful to be able to cross the words out, which you cannot do online.
6. Once they are finished, go back into your form and change it to no longer accept responses. If they take it multiple times, it will tell you. But you don’t want them showing it to someone else when they’re not supposed to.

I hope this has been helpful. Like I said, this is all a learning process for me and I’m still figuring it out. There are tons of great add-ons I’ve heard about and hope to use soon. Give it a try for yourself!

A Blog About a Blog!

I’ve been a member of the Life Science Teacher Resource Center since last spring. I completed their scholar program which taught me the ins and outs of the site and was then asked to return as a mentor for the new scholars over the summer. As part of that program, I was also asked to be a guest blogger on the LifeSciTRC. I’m so proud of the work I did over there that I want to share it here!

   Get Your Students to Gobble Up Reading

A lot of the ideas I discuss there, I’ve already introduced here on my blog…. you know… refusing the reinvent the wheel!

But seriously, check out their site. There are THOUSANDS of awesome lesson plans and classroom resources on there. And it’s all FREE! The community isn’t very active, which I really wish it was because I feel like it could be such a  valuable resource within itself. But hey, if you join too feel free to jump in! Maybe I’ll see you there!


Unleashing Student Creativity

It’s back to school time. I’ve had my students back for a full week and so far, so good! I’m really making an effort to encourage students to be more creative in my biology classes and prove that they understand the concepts and not just memorized facts. I wanted to hit the ground running with all the review and beginning of the year topics (ie. scientific method & lab safety).

  As my students came in the room, I had a power point rolling through lab safety memes I found on the internet. Here were a few of my favorites….

     IMG_0626    IMG_0625


As a class we came up with a list of important lab rules and wrote them on the board. I made sure we hit all the big ones, but also allowed pretty much anything (ie. “No twerking in the lab”). They completed the lab safety symbols list in their science notebooks ….

IMG_1437Then they worked in partners to create their own lab safety meme. I gave them a bunch of magazines they could cut up. Some chose to print pictures off the internet. One group even took a picture of themselves on the iPad, uploaded to google drive, then printed it out. These turned out so much better than I hoped! The ones below are my favorites. I’m going to laminate them and hang them in my room forever!!








Mother Earth Thanks You.

Photo courtesy of www.ekathimerini.com

Photo courtesy of http://www.ekathimerini.com

I spend pretty much the last quarter of my freshmen biology class on the environment. I tried a new project this year, and I loved it. But more importantly, most of the kids loved it too! They made their own compost containers and then we ran them for about 6 weeks to test their effectiveness.

The district I teach in is very rural. Some families don’t even have garbage pick-up, let alone curbside recycling programs. So a lot of my students don’t think twice about throwing out EVERYTHING. I started by having them keep track of all the waste produced in their house for a week and what was done with it (garbage, recycle, or compost). Then we broke down that list into what could be done differently. This also led to a lesson on zero-waste communities.

So for their compost containers, they worked in groups (which I assigned). I tried to give each group a more creative person, a good leader, and a hands on learner. It was definitely different from who they normally worked with. So the first document below is the work they did together. They researched what compost is and how it works. Then they did design. I gave them pretty free range over the internet, but told them they had to bring in all their own supplies. I expected to get 30 buckets with holes in the bottom, but they actually had a lot of different ideas (I of course forgot to get their pictures off the iPads before they deleted them). I gave them one class period to build them…. power tools and duct tape galore!

Then they used the data sheets (kept in their science notebook) to keep their data every 2-3 days. We kept them out in the greenhouse. They definitely get smelly. About halfway through (~20 days), they had to present to the class what was working well and needed improving about their design. Then the next day they could make those changes.

At the end, we took them all apart and they had to turn in their analysis. I gave them the template (below) on googledrive and they filled in their own answers.

So in the end, there were a few reasons I loved this project: #1- We got to go outside.  #2- This gave the hands on kids a chance to shine and really take charge for a change. #3- Kids could see the results happening in front of them. They had opportunities to ask questions and work out the answers.

Here are my docs:   Compost Containers            Compost Analysis


Review Days- More Than Just Jeopardy

My exit slips... thank god for post its!

My exit slips… thank god for post its!

I’ve been doing some pre-school year planning this week… can you believe it’s time already? This week I put together a list of review activities. Like most teachers, I have a go to review game that the kids love (hint- they get to throw things). I put them in groups and ask them questions. If they get it right, they can throw a suction cup ball at my lab tables (which of course need to be cleared off!) to multiply their points depending on which table they hit. This past year I made the addition of letting them either add the points to their score… or take them away from another team. Survivor meets bio class! They love it (again, they can throw things…. AND be vengeful)! But I decided that most teams just rely on one person and not everyone participates.

So here are some new ideas I came up with…. for most of these, I would put them in pairs or small groups depending on the class size.  I plan to use these the day or two before the test.

  • Create review presentation or video:  It could be about the whole unit or pick a specific concept for each group. They could present it to the class and/or could post it on the class website for others to view and use to review for the test.
    •  Side Note: Whenever I have them do presentations as a group, I make them give me a print off and initial on whatever parts they are responsible for. This way they all participate. And more than once I have had students come to me and tell me “so-and-so” didn’t really do their part.
  • Present current event story to class: We all love written articles (ahem, Common Core), but I also let them use online videos (from a credible source, of course) or they can do a write-up from a news cast. They can turn in a summary, relate it to what we learned in class, and then tell their classmates about it.
  • Write test questions & answers: Once in a while, I use them on the actual test. Rarely on the test they are about to take because I have to have it done further in advance in order for special ed. teachers to have time to modify. But I can always make changes for next year. I could also have them use them in class to review with each other.
  • Create review worksheet or group activity: Again, I will hold on to the good ones and can use them next year. My students are sometimes surprisingly creative! But I can make a few copies and they can do them together in class or can post to the website for other students to use when reviewing for the test.

I’m thinking I can have a few students complete each task, then put them in groups with people from different activities to present what they’ve done instead of presenting to the whole class.

What review ideas do you love??  And good luck with the new school year!