As I sit in my (currently) empty classroom this morning, I am overcome with a rush of emotions. We all know the horrific tragedy that unfolded on Friday in Connecticut. I was off on Friday, and first heard the news as I was sitting with a girlfriend getting a pedicure. Seems so petty now that I was out having fun while others were at their job, the same job that I have, protecting their students, some, losing their lives. When the news first popped on, the newscaster said that one person had been killed, possibly a child. Just hearing that ONE child had been shot was heartbreaking. But then, as the morning went on, and more and more details came to surface (not all true I might add), it became evident that the ONE student had grown to TWENTY. My eyes are filled to the brim as I type that number. Twenty innocent little boys and girls who will no longer have the chance to grow up to become the doctors, teachers, astronauts, or princesses that they dreamed to be. Twenty boys and girls who went to school Friday morning, just like every other day, assuming that they would be learning their ABC's and 123's, playing with their friends, hugging their teachers, and being SAFE.
And then some coward came in and took all of that away. The security that children and adults should feel everyday while at work and school, gone. The sense of peace parents should have as they kiss and hug their children good-bye, *knowing* that they are going somewhere that they will be safe and loved, gone. The lives of so many who had so much more living to do, so many dreams to fulfill, gone. And on top of all of that, he of course took his own life. Because he was a coward. Because he was a nasty enough person that he could kill innocent people, but not big enough to stick around to deal with the consequences of his actions. I don't care if he was an "outcast". I don't care if he had a "mental disorder". Everyone has problems. But not everyone goes on a shooting rampage because of it. If you can kill your own mother, hop into a car (full of guns and ammunition), go into a school and start shooting people that you have no connection to, people that had nothing to do with whatever you felt was wrong with you, you clearly have some form of clear thinking going on. Those guns didn't grow arms and legs Friday morning and shoot his mom. Or drive themselves to the school and shoot those teachers and students. No, they were picked up by a maniac and used for evil. It's not my place to judge that boy, or to decide what gun laws should be in place or who/what is to blame for what went wrong with that young man. But I will not read anymore stories that talk about him or his disorder. I will not be made to feel sorry for someone who killed innocent, defenseless women and children. The media is doing exactly what he wanted. They are comparing this shooting to others, ranking it in it's "deadly factor" and giving him all of the glory and attention he no doubt wanted when he took his life. We need to focus on the lives that were lost, focus on how we can keep our schools safer, and stop focusing on the person who caused this tragedy. He does not deserve our thoughts or time.
As a parent, as I watched the news coverage and saw the heartwrenching images of parents searching for their children, desperately trying to find out whether or not their child was alive or dead, my heart was aching. One of the best "parent" quotes I have ever heard was that when you have a child, it's like your heart walking outside of your body. For some of those parents, their hearts were gone. Taken away from them in a split second. I cannot imagine being the one to receive the news that Kason or Kutter was one of the victims. They were all I thought about all day Friday. I wasn't supposed to see them before they left to go to their dad's for the weekend. They were supposed to be gone before I got back from shopping. As I was headed back home, looking at the clock, I had an overwhelming urge to go to my mom's and hopefully get to see them and love on them before their dad showed up. I was afraid I wouldn't make it, but somehow, I did. When I got there, they were confused as to why I was there when I told them I wouldn't be, but I saw the smiles on their faces as I literally almost tackled them onto the couch hugging them and kissing them and telling them how much I loved them. I got a bunch of, "I know mama! Mom, I know! I love you too! Eww you're kissing me in front of my friends!" but I didn't care. All I could think about were those parents who will never get the chance to hug and kiss their babies again. The ones who only have memories left, and were robbed of the chance to make new memories for years to come. I knew the boys thought I had gone crazy, but I also knew that if for some horrible horrible reason that ended up being the last time I saw them, I had the peace that they had felt my love, and I cherished their love all weekend until I got them back. I know that as time goes on, and this incident in Connecticut fades to the back of our minds and disappears out of the news, many will go back to their old habits and routines. I know my kids are going to drive me crazy and get into trouble. But I am going to do my best to hold my boys a little tighter each day, hug them a little a longer, kiss them a little more, and say I love you as much as possible. When I picked the boys up yesterday afternoon, they started talking about what they had apparently heard or seen on the news. I hadn't planned on talking to them about it just yet, but it seems the media and their dad beat me to it. They talked about what they would do if someone came into their classroom. They told me how they thought our school was safe, but now they don't know. And then they started talking about the children who died. I almost had to pull over because of the tears. They were so sad that those children will not be here for Christmas. Sad that their families will miss them so much. And they hope that Santa Claus will make a stop in Heaven (since he will be in the sky close to Heaven) and give the boys and girls all of the gifts they wanted because they deserve to celebrate Christmas too. Sometimes those kids just amaze me.
As a teacher, I go to work each day and expect to be safe. Not because my school has maximum security, it does not. But because I guess I am naive and don't think about the fact that people are crazy and heartless and could at any moment bust through the doors of my school and classroom, and take what is not theirs. I became a teacher because I love children, I have always worked well with children, and I believe that every child deserves to receive an education. I also believe that every child deserves to have a teacher that not only teaches them what the state says they need to learn, but also a teacher who is encouraging, shares kind words, hugs them, and loves them like they are her (or his) own. I know this is true of how I feel for my students. I am with my students almost eight hours a day, five days a week. For most, they are with me more than they are with their own parents. I am with these children more each day than I am with my own. Once they step into my classroom, they become mine. I come to work each day for THEM. I spend the money I earn on THEM so that they can have the best possible experience in my class. When I leave work each day, I am still thinking of THEM. When they are in my care, they are my responsibility. Their parents send them to school each day to be with ME, because they trust me and expect that I will take care of their child and keep them safe. When I hear about all of the heroic things that the teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary did, I cannot help but feel a sense of pride. Pride in knowing that other teachers feel the same way I do, and pride in knowing that those teachers did everything in their power, including having their own lives taken, so that their students would be safe. Teachers shielding students with their bodies, that is a selfless act. Teachers locking their classes in bathrooms and closets and managing to keep their students calm and quiet as they no doubt had panic and fear running through their minds and bodies, that is courageous. I'd like to think that if I found myself in a similar situation that I would be able to act calmly in the midst of chaos. It frightens me to think about something like that happening at my school. It makes me sick to my stomach that I even have to think about the possibility of that happening, because clearly that is not a fear that I, or anyone else, should have. From here on out I will prepare myself the best way I know how for a situation like that, and just hope and pray that I will never have to find out.
I'm trying to find peace with all of this, just as I'm sure you all are too. I hope we can find it.