Sunday, December 16, 2012

I'm an Elementary School Teacher

Last week I wrote about what my job entails. One of my posts focused on the academic pieces, another on the students, and one more about the flotsam and jetsam that must be handled.

In all of my thinking and writing about my job, safety never crossed my mind. I’m not sure why that is, especially since I've had many conversations with my first graders in the past week about keeping bodies and selves safe (there has been a lot of very physical play at recess and some unkind words at other times).

Even when I do think about what I need to do as a teacher to keep my students safe it is focused on their emotional well-being and managing minor bumps and bruises. Life and death situations do not cross my mind.

I sincerely hope that will continue to be true in the future. After the horrifying events at Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday I don’t know. It’s not that I have any question about what I, my colleagues, and every teacher would do in such a situation, it’s simply that it has never occurred to me that such a need would arise.

I learned of the tragedy during lunch and spoke with two colleagues about it before having to teach again. I was in shock and I believe that one of the first things I said was, “This happens in high schools. This is a high school thing.”

Believing that has allowed me to live as though this could never happen to me, to my daughters, to my students. I can live that way no longer.

Tomorrow I will follow our regular routine. We will read, work on word study, go to P.E., play, and get through our day. Those routines will help all of us to believe that things are normal. But I will also be hyper award of my students’ sense of safety, physical and emotional. I will be prepared to have tough conversations if they bring up questions, worries, or stories they have heard. I will do everything in my power to keep them safe and to ensure they feel safe.

I've written twice about how September 11th impacted me as a teacher. My most vivid memories are not of that day but of September 13th, the day we returned to school. Based on those memories I am expecting tomorrow to be exhausting and emotionally draining. In spite of that, I'll just be glad to be together.

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