Today I wish I hadn’t.
Earlier in the day I saw the headline that there had been a shooting in a school in Connecticut. There weren’t very many details at the time. Because of this, it didn’t really have an impact on me and I continued through my afternoon of teaching.
Right before my final third grade class of the day I had a ten-minute break. That’s when I saw the headline, 26 victims, 20 of which were children, the ages from 5-10. Before I knew it, I had my class of 3rd graders in front of me, ages 8-9.
I got through the lesson pretty well. We’re learning “Imagine” by John Lennon for the upcoming Holiday Program (if this seems like an odd choice for a Holiday Concert, hang on, I’ll explain why I chose to have my students perform this song in a later post). I’ve been showing them videos of different artist performing this song. Today it was Lady Gaga’s cover:
When she sang “ . . . nothing to kill or die for . . .” I felt so sad and confused. Now that I know these kids, I couldn’t imagine a world without them. The idea of these kids, any of my kids being taken away from their families and this world was simply incomprehensible.
You’d think, that the more you teach, the more that you are able to compartmentalize the way you feel about your kids and the rest of your life. In many ways this is true, but in some ways it's not. Each time I hear about a tragedy at a school, it gets to me even more than the previous one.
Schools are one of our societies’ greatest accomplishments. The energy of young children, their hope and their spirit, is what keeps the best of our humanity alive inside all of us. When you bring together kids in a school with the goal of growing and becoming better human beings, what is created is simply magical.
That should never change and when it does, when the horrors of our world invade our schools, it hurts, it really hurts. It's shattering.
I wanted to say something to my 3rd graders. They hadn’t heard the news and this was the kind of thing that it was important that their parents talk to them about. However I just needed to say something to them. I felt this tragedy too deeply to not express my feeling to them. So I ended the class with this:
One of the thing that changes when you get older is that you have more choices. Most of you don’t have a choice of whether or not to come to school, but I do. I chose to take this job and I choose to come to school everyday to work with all of you. I don’t have to be here. If I didn’t want to come in, someone else would replace me.
I like teaching you. I love sharing the music that I love with all of you. I enjoy the time I spend with you and I feel really lucky to have that time.
Next week, we get the opportunity to perform “Imagine,” for our community. It's a song about imagining how the world can be a better place and I know all of you can make it better, simply by being who you are.
I’m really looking forward to your performance. I know all of you are going to be fantastic.
Thanks everybody. Have a great weekend.