This afternoon, I sat at the back table of my classroom and checked my email while my students finished a test. I knew nothing about what happened in Connecticut, always late to know, most of my day disconnected from the internet. Another teacher wrote an email suggesting we might do something to reach out to Sandy Hook Elementary School…
I had no idea what he was talking about.
Reading the CNN updates as my students concentrated on parts of speech, my eyes filled with tears. The world is filled with so many horrors, but nothing is quite as horrific as violence toward children. I don’t know if it is because I am a teacher or because I was in a room full of kids, but this story shook me more than any other in my life.
It breaks my heart to think there is one more thing for my students to fear. Life outside of school is already scary enough. I will never forget my residency year when a student told the class about how his grandfather was gunned down in his front yard. Half the room had something similar to share. I was shocked.
Anxiety rooted in real life trauma is common for many of the children I serve. I am often thankful that at least my kids can feel safe at school. I tell them that everything else stays outside. “You are safe,” I say. Those are the only words I have to offer and I mean them.
Now I fear many of my students will hear this story and be afraid at school, too. Threats of violence are not uncommon. We go through the motions of threat assessments, psychological evaluations, and lockdown drills, but I downplay the likelihood of violence occurring. It’s all I can do to keep my sanity.
This story hit too close.
I grieve for the families and students robbed of life. I grieve for our country. I grieve for fear.
School should be a sacred space, the place that everything else in our world is kept at bay, where kids feel safe. I’m going to do everything in my power to keep it this way, even if it means not saying anything to my students because I don’t want to give them something new to fear. I now get why parents sometimes choose to shelter their children, the world is a hard place and kids deserve a space to feel safe.