Those are some of the first words that come to my mind when thinking of the situation at Sandy Hook Elementary. While I normally keep this blog light, I couldn't help but speak out and share some of my reactions as a parent, as a former teacher, as a citizen.
Maybe I am cynical, but I must say that not many news stories effect me on a personal level. However, as I sat watching the details, reactions, and unraveling of facts in this tragedy, I genuinely shed tears and have been rocked to my core. I can't help but think of so many horrific aspects of this...some relatively trivial and some much larger. The fact that those children died in such horror. The fact that those parents probably rushed their children off to school that morning, burdened by the stress of getting them out the door in time and with their necessities (much like I did with my own precious son that same morning) with no thought of the chance of not seeing them that afternoon. The fact that those children were probably eagerly anticipating Christmas...or were right in the middle of Hanukkah...and that in all likelihood there were presents already purchased that will never be opened. The fact that the children who were killed likely had young siblings, young neighbors, and young friends throughout that building who will also have to deal with a tragedy that even most adults can not grasp.
There are so many big and small tragedies within the large event. But I like to think that things happen for a reason, and that we have to move forward to learn some lessons or strive to do better or something...so that the loss of those children, teachers, and administrators is not completely in vain. Obviously, the dialogues about gun control, mental health awareness, violence in our society have already begun. But maybe one more thing we can take from this is a greater respect for teachers and the job they do day in and day out.
All over my Facebook feed is the story of the first grade teacher who hid in her children in closets and cabinets, lied to the gunman that her students were at PE, and therefore was killed herself, thus saving all those young lives. First and foremost, that young woman is clearly a hero. But I can't help but think that the vast majority of teachers I know would have done the exact same thing. I can speak from experience in saying that a teachers' students are her (or his) own children for the 7ish hours they spend together in a day...they comfort them when sad or sick, celebrate their successes, admire them . While the teaching of reading, writing, and arithmetic is the technical job description, teaching, especially in an elementary school, is much more about protecting, guiding, and caring about the young children that enter our classroom each day. Teachers know that they have a parent's most precious possession in their own care for that day and would do absolutely anything for those children, especially because in many ways those children become yours in a sense.
I also heard the story of another first grade teacher who huddled with her children in a bathroom, sure to tell those children that she loved them...because she wanted them to know they were loved in case the worse were to happen. I couldn't help but picture myself in my old classroom's bathroom, and again, I know any teacher would do the same.
Which brings me to my next point and hopefully what will become a huge take-home from this. As a teacher and now as a parent, I frequently encounter other parents who criticize teachers, who doubt or even pointedly deny what their child's teacher has to say in regards to their children. From the 2 year old's mom who claims her child would never hit another child to some of the parents in my classes over the years who came up with such crazy excuses for their child's misbehavior (including, at times, blaming it on me), I think everyone needs to acknowledge that if a teacher is bringing forth a concern, it is not meant as an insult to your child or your parenting, but because it is a genuine concern. After these tragedies, the same script always plays out...that the shooter was withdrawn, awkward in some way, troubled. And I'm willing to bet that those parents were told that by some teacher over the years, and while I can not know how they reacted, I am confident that if they had heeded those warnings and taken steps to rectify the issues, it is quite likely that we would not have these types of tragedies to deal with.
As the country moves forward, I can only hope that we not only hug our children a little tighter each day, but also respect our teachers a bit more.