I have spent more than half my life teaching Primary grades. In those years, I have seen more school shootings than I care to remember, two Space Shuttles explode killing everyone, the attacks on 9-11, and local events that didn’t make national news, but affected me as a teacher just the same.
There are no words that I have to comfort anyone, because I can’t comfort myself over yesterday’s mass shooting of small children in Newtown, CT. Every graphic I see, every blog post I read makes me cry. I don’t know what I will say on Monday when my students return to school. Will they have questions? Will they be afraid? Will they ask me if it could ever happen at our school?
Because our school does have woods surrounding it, I stand vigilant during every fire drill, my eyes scanning the tree line and hill – wondering if someone is going to take that opportunity to wreak havoc on us. When we practice our “Code Red” drill, I demonstrate how I will lock the door, put them in the bathroom (thank goodness I have a new room with an IDEA accessible bathroom) and stand outside the door. I “promise” them that it is my job to take care of them, and that I will. They are, after all, young children who don’t need to know all the gory details about why we practice this drill so I don’t tell them that we do this in case someone comes to our school with a weapon. Do I need to do that now?
Every day, when I enter that building, and those children come to my room – I am acting “in loco parentis”. It is my DUTY to treat each of them as if they were my own child. It is my DUTY to protect them, to help them, to be sure they are fed and clothed. This I believe with all of my being.
I know that we will laugh more, play more, sing more, and hug more now. I know that I need to make their days in my classroom joyful and loving. I know that the little things that were driving me crazy on Friday morning won’t seem so big on Monday morning. I know that I will cherish even more the hand scrawled notes telling me that I am “grate”.