Friday, December 21, 2012

Year 3: Week 15 – One Week Later

Throughout the country, teachers went to work last Monday morning.  We had the weekend to reflect and gather our thoughts about the tragedy in Connecticut, but like many teachers I didn’t feel like I was ready to face my students.

It seemed like that every hour a new story or photo would appear and the tears would return. I could barely think about what happened without being overwhelmed by sadness. Last Wednesday was the first day that I didn’t break down thinking about that community or hearing a news story.  As I think about it now, my tears have subsided but the heavy feeling in my heart is still present.

I guess this all would have been easier if this week I didn’t work in a school or with children. Maybe, I wouldn’t be reminded of the tragedy and think about it as much. But I do work in a school.

I spent the weekend reading articles about how to talk to kids about the tragedy and talking to friends who were teachers. I was hoping that this perspective would help me feel different; somehow better about walking into my school Monday morning. But I found myself driving to work feeling no more prepared to deal with my students feelings and my own then I did Friday afternoon.

Before school we had a special early faculty meeting. One of the things I love about faculty meetings is seeing people from different parts of the school in one place. It’s usually a fun positive feeling in the room but today felt different. There was a feeling of tension and apprehension.

I found out that some veteran teachers were not sure how to handle the tragedy with the kids. On one hand, this was comforting, knowing that I wasn’t the only one who felt lost, but one the other hand, it made me realize that this tragedy was an even more shattering. If these teachers who I looked up to were struggling with this thing, than this really was an extraordinary situation.

First thing in the morning I had my 8th grade band. I didn’t address the tragedy directly, but I did talk about “Some Nights,” by Fun. I discussed the feeling of not knowing and fully understanding the world as being something to embrace in life (as I explained in this blog post). I probably went on for a little bit too long, but I couldn't myself.

The classroom teachers had discussions with their students but beyond that it was a pretty chill school day. The thing about kids is that when tragedies happen, they sometimes don’t affect kids as much as we think. A fourth graders does not have the life experience or the mental capacity to comprehend what happened in Connecticut.

I know that there were children who were affected deeply by what happened, but I didn’t end up having any conversations with kids about it. This week really was about trying to keep it together and create a sense of normalcy for my kids. Little things caught my attention like the sound effect of a gunshot in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” when Linus throws a snowball with his blanket.

Then there were the moments that were really a struggle for me to keep it together. Watching a class of first graders walk down the hallway and seeing the kindergarten students perform on stage during our holiday program.

These kids are so small and so beautifully awkward and cute and to them the world is a beautiful and wonderful place full of love and friends. These kids don’t know how much they mean to their families and how much they mean to all of us.

So one week later. Has anything changed for me as a teacher? The main thing is that I feel much stronger about the responsibility I have with my students. Hearing parents reflect on the children that they lost reminded me of how important children are to their parents. It is an enormous amount of trust that parents put into schools. They are entrusting in teachers the most important thing in their lives and the most important thing in our society.

You can’t sit and dwell on this because it can become overwhelming and petrifying, but you can’t forget this because we can’t get lazy, there’s too much at stake. There’s too many kids we loose, so we have to make the time with the ones that we have meaning.

This was a hard week and it wasn’t any speech, news commentator, editorial or even any other teacher that helped me get through this week. What put me back together were my students.

It's hearing the voices of children singing, helping a student understand a song a little better and watching one of my third grade girls greet her friend with a hug.


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