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Fighting School Shooters With the Pinecone Defense

This is what it's come to. The Pinecone Defense. In the wake of the Stoneman Douglas High School shootings, we teachers are ready to lead a fight. We've been advised to. And I'm not the only one who's willing to battle.

The plan in Room B-33 is for me to fire a Stubby Claw hammer at the shooter. Followed by an iron apple (a gift from a former student that was intended to be a paperweight, not a weapon) followed by whatever else I can grab and chuck. Simultaneously, the students sitting near the door will pounce on him. (I'm not being sexist. Although there have been female school shooters, the vast majority of them have been male). Then, the rest of us will join in and subdue the assailant.

Still, the chances of us ever having to put our strategy into action are tiny. A more realistic threat is the three towering trees surrounding our classroom.

Although they look lovely, these pines are packing cones! And like the sheep in The Alchemist, my students don't look up. If they did, they'd spot the danger lurking above.

The trees were the motivation for the original pinecone defense.

"When you approach the room," I've warned my kids, "be like a boxer. Keep your head and hands up. Try to avoid the blow. If that doesn't work, block. If that's too much to remember, wear a helmet to class. Motorcycle, bike or football, it doesn't matter. Just protect your head!"

I was only half joking. I've seen and heard these half-pound pinecones smash onto the ground. It's only a matter of time until a student is concussed (or worse) after being bonked on the dome. Beyond the injury, there will be the messiness of the inevitable lawsuit. Maybe the admin will head my warning...

Then one rainy day, peering out my classroom door and noting the scores of lethal weapons the trees had discharged, I got an idea.

"Hey, everyone. Tomorrow, on your way to class, pick up a solid, throwable pinecone and lay it on your desk. Everybody needs one."


"Because it's stupid for me to be the only one throwing stuff at a school shooter. If the improbable horror happens, you're all going to pelt the shooter with your pinecone. Imagine 30 of these coming at you! Just one thing. You have to be disciplined. You've got to be be absolutely certain that your target is an actual school shooter! I don't want one of our principals having to duck, dodge and cover."

Good idea, right?

Wrong. I didn't take into account that pinecones harbor insects. And spiders. And when they open up, both emerge. And kids jump out of their desks and scream. And I can't teach class.

So it was a bad idea. But bad ideas are necessary - if we try them. Bad ideas are good ideas never acted upon. Only when put our ideas out into the world do we find out whether they're really good or they only seemed good when they were inside our head.

So out with the complex and in with the simple. Bugs don't live in rocks but rocks weren't scattered outside my classroom door. Even with the blatantly obvious, out of sight, out of mind, I guess. Clearly, for our purpose, rocks are better than pinecones. I mean, duh!

"Hey, everyone. Pinecone defense 2.0 seemed like a good idea, but it sucks. My bad. Tonight's homework is to find throwable rock and bring it to class tomorrow.

"The rock defense has begun."

The American Classroom, 2018 C.E.

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