Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Twenty Tiny Caskets

I apologize. I need somewhere to put this or I simply might not make it through my day.

I am sitting here in the middle of the night, having been awakened by my six year old who is not feeling well and just wants to be near his mom. He has long since gone back to sleep, but I keep reaching over to give him little hugs and kisses that he will not remember in the morning. I have school tomorrow and I know I am going to be way too tired to cross anything off of my list, but right now, I am savoring this insomnia. My heart is full and I feel so blessed because today, my babies came home safe from school.

I have limited my television and internet use the last few days because I know that no matter where I turn, there will be coverage of the events (does tragedy even describe it?) in Connecticut. And I can’t watch. My mind cannot even begin to comprehend this one. So I am hugging my children and distancing myself from the storm.

As a parent, I cannot fathom losing a child. I cannot imagine going over to my mantle and taking down an empty stocking. I cannot imagine putting away all the angry birds scattered in every corner of the house because there is no one left to play with them. I cannot imagine sending my children off on the school bus never to see them again. I have been close to some who have traveled down that dark road and I have no idea how they found the strength to go on. There are not enough prayers in the world, but I will continue to send them up anyway.  

As a teacher, there are so many things that race through my mind. You cannot escape the pictures of the six adults who were lost and I am all too aware that in the society we live in, it could have just as easily been me. Today they are celebrated as heroes for protecting the life of someone else’s child. We give them that lip service, but do we truly have any idea what that actually means? Do we just assume now that teaching is an occupation that could possibly involve that sacrifice? I picture my boy's kindergarten teachers. Those calm souls who never seem to raise their voices, going through their days with the unbelievable patience it takes to teach toddlers to read and write. Would any of them protect my baby? Would I expect them to?

I wonder what goes through your mind when you know the children in your classroom are threatened. Do you think about shoving kids into closets or is it an automatic reaction? How in the world do you think fast enough to tell a madman that your kids are all in the gym in order to keep them hidden? Do you practice that?

I find myself wondering how I would handle a similar situation. I spend my life raising other people’s children, and as a result, I come to love so many of them. It’s really not that difficult when you realize they are more often than not kids who just want to know that someone cares about them. Could I sacrifice myself for these kids that I love knowing that my own children would grow up without a mother? I suppose that isn't something you think about beforehand.

Today I found myself watching my students more than usual. Found myself making an inventory of everything I knew about each one. That one lives with her grandmother because her mother is in prison. The girl next to her is in foster care because of things so unspeakable. He forgot to take his meds this morning so there is no way he is going to make it through the day without a trip to the principal. That boy wants to be an engineer and I am pretty sure the boy next to him is hungover. What issues are they dealing with? Are they happy? Hurting? Can I make it better? If I go to the music program tonight, would it make an enormous difference to that one child? Did I say something today that gave them a reason to be happy? Or something that tore them down? I nearly panicked this morning when I missed saying hello to one of the kids I passed in the hall because I know how important it is to him.

Four times this year my community has seen first hand how not having a purpose in life can devastate a person. Bright kids with their whole lives ahead of them decided there was no point. Was there something I could have done differently that might have sent one of them on a different path? When would I have found time for that? Helping students set goals and working out a plan to achieve those goals is not a priority for us because rich, white men in power have decided that a test score is the best way to decide a child's worth. You don't need counselors for that. Or librarians. Or even actual teachers.

People are going to try to spin this event into their own agenda. Is it about mental illness? Gun control? God was just having a bad day? I am honestly waiting for someone to come out and blame his past teachers. We will point fingers and try to assign blame somewhere other than where it might actually lie.

It belongs with all of us. I have no idea what his issues were and I have no intention of finding out. What I know is that we as a society were not there for someone who needed help. For all our talk of opportunity and hope, we as a people tend to turn our backs on those who need us most. Look away and we can pretend the problems don't exist. When the options run out, what is left? Our media told him it was okay to use violence as a solution to his problems and so he did.

I don't know what I can do. All I know is I will try to guide each child as they come to me. I can give them the tools they need to think critically and maybe show them that they can be successful when presented with a challenge. And I hope they know I am someone they can come to if they need help.

And I will hug my own children tighter in the morning, hoping and praying they never have to know what it is like to experience something like this.

Friday, December 14, 2012

She Lives!

Hello World!

I feel so out of the loop at this point I'm not even sure how to get back in. 

Soon, I will get back to reflecting on my teaching (oh, do I still do that???), but I am so excited for my kids that I really feel like I have to share. As you may know, I sponsor a Robotics team, but what you may not know is how something like that can completely take over your life. I discovered that last year, so I knew going in this year more or less what to expect. What I was not expecting this year was to continue on after Game Day. 

Yep. They did it. 

This year my kids placed fourth in our hub and qualified for the Frontier Trails BEST Regional Competition. Talk about being blindsided. All season we had talked about what it would be like to go, but it truly was never really on the radar. But then it happened. So we spent another three weeks working on Mike and all his paraphernalia. Then we loaded up a bus and I hauled sixteen teenagers across three states into the unknown (again) to one of the most amazing activities I have ever witnessed. If you have ever been to a robotics competition, you know how crazy it is.* Go to a regional competition and it is that times ten. My ears are still ringing.

We had a blast. We learned a ton. We got to see the amazing creativity that comes out when you let kids run with an idea. We even placed higher than we thought we might!

I have been involved in a lot of activities in the time that I have been a teacher. None of those can hold a candle to the experience of a robotics team. My kids are excited about learning. They are excited about science. They are excited about accomplishing something difficult and amazing. They are excited about next year. We were at GAME DAY and my kids were making a list of things they wanted to do for next year. 

So it must be a good thing. Seriously. Look into it!

*You know kickoff at a football game where the band is playing, the people are cheering and the atmosphere just feels charged? At a robotics competition, this goes on for six hours. It. Does. Not. Stop.

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