I've struggled with whether or not to blog, because what can I say about Friday's tragedy that hasn't been said already? But writing it out can be healing, I hope, and we need to heal.
I am taking this one doubly hard, as a teacher and a mother of a soon-to-be six year old. I just simply cannot imagine the pain caused and I'm not ashamed to admit that I've lost count of how many times I've wept for the loss this weekend. I just... I can't even imagine how you move on from this, how those parents and survivors even begin to recover, ever.
I didn't find out about Sandy Hook until a few hours after it happened. I was busy teaching. I was using my computer to show a clip of a Holocaust survivor speaking about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, so I wasn't even checking my email Friday. Then I had a parent conference, then I went to lunch. It wasn't until after lunch that I checked my email and first had any idea of what happened, as my response to intervention class filtered in. They were supposed to read Chapter 6 of Call of the Wild. They begged me, instead, to let them play Heads up, Seven up arguing that they worked hard all week. I let them. They must've been so surprised because I rarely let them win these arguments--and believe me, they try often--but I gave in so quickly. Because, well, I probably don't even have to explain why.
Next hour, I continued to teach about the uprising. It was hard. The clip I showed had a woman speaking of how they fought in the uprising because they knew they were going to die, but they wanted to die in their own terms. We talked about this and how there was a strength in her words and how kids their own age were the true heroes of the uprising because they were the ones who slipped in and out of the ghetto to get weapons from the liberation front. It was hard, really hard, to teach this subject with the news in the back of my mind. I swallowed a lot of lumps in my throat.
As soon as I got in my car, the tears came and they haven't really stopped. As a teacher, I know that school is sometimes the only safe haven some of my students have. For some of them, it may be the one hot meal they get in a day. It may be the one place where an adult looks at them kindly and cares for them. While I teach in a great community, I'm not so naive to believe that every home is perfect. And so, I try very hard to make my classroom a safe space for kids. For 8th graders, that means that I joke around with them and they give it right back. The fact that they give it right back to me? THAT is how I know that I've made a safe space. When they tell me things about their life, that's how I know I've made a safe space. When they ask about my life, that's how I know that I've made a safe space. When they linger after class and say, "Your class always goes so fast because it's fun and I do well," that's how I know I've made a safe space. When they tell me they like the stories we've read so far, that's how I know I've made a safe space. When I reteach a concept and give them an exit slip on it and one of them writes, "I get it now!" on the bottom, that's how I know I've made a safe space. And when I am reminded that NO MATTER WHAT I DO, that space can never really be safe, it gets inside my head.
We do lockdown drills. They get inside your head. The kids might giggle slightly at being crammed together, but we all know what they mean. We all know that every time we practice one, it's because it could happen. When I stand there and look at the setup in my room, I think, "Why can't I fit more kids behind my desk? I should move that file cabinet." And when there's a school shooting, we all sit around and rearrange our room mentally and think, "Where would we put them? How would I protect them?" Truthfully, I wish I could stay home tomorrow, hide under a blanket, because I know my kids will want to talk. I know they'll need reassurance that it's still a safe space... and I'm not sure that I can give that to them, but somehow, I will find a way.