Monday, December 17, 2012

Sandy Hooks Elementary

Friday, December 14 started out like any other day. I'd been tired all week, but I knew at the end of this school day that I'd be on vacation until the new year. We were having holiday parties, and middle school students were either going on a field trip (6th grade) or going to a dance in the afternoon (7th & 8th grade).  The energy in the building crackled like a November bonfire.  
Students in my 8th grade writing class were bouncing off the walls. So I had them decompress by journaling while listening to soothing music. Everybody was smiling. Happy. Excited. Little did I know that in a small town in Connecticut, a deranged gunman was spraying six and seven year-olds with bullets.

During lunchroom duty, while I was making sure that meatballs didn’t take flight or cupcake icing doubled as make-up, murder and mayhem was erupting in Sandy Hooks Elementary School. When I first learned of the shooting, I couldn’t watch it or read about it. It was too close to home, and unbelievably scary. I teach in an elementary school prek to 8th, and I know the vulnerability of being in a public space charged with the safety of children. 

So while I was ushering children out of the building for winter break, I didn’t want to know what went so horribly wrong that some depraved person would open fire on children in classrooms. I couldn't wrap my mind around the reality of it as I scanned the faces of the students that I see every day. I couldn’t imagine me or my colleagues being gunned down in our school—a place that supposed to be a safe haven.
We do disaster drills of all types, and I’m constantly stressing to my students the importance of following directions and taking the drills seriously because I take the safety of my students seriously. Parents send their children to school in good faith that their children will be there waiting for them at the end of the day. But on Friday a sicko in Conneticut shattered that faith. 

About two years ago, I was in a school where we were doing a lockdown drill, and it was ironically on the same day that there was shooting outside a school in Mexico and the teacher kept the children safe and calm singing the Barney song. The gunman that seemed so far away that day is too close for comfort now.
I have been to the funerals of my students and it is heart wrenching. Earlier this week, I asked my students to write about where they see themselves in 10 years, and one wrote dead and another said in jail. My students are in 7th and 8th grade. They see no future. The students in Connecticut were in kindergarten and first grade; their future was snatched before it even started. Children deserve the chance to grow up, but how do we prevent our children from becoming part of the carnage in an increasingly violent and dysfunctional society?

Friday, December 14, was our last day before break, a time to enjoy family friends and refresh for the new year. But for the families of 27 people in Connecticut it was their last day of life. Can someone tell me how to deal with that?

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