Sunday, December 16, 2012
This tragedy reminds me once again why we do what we do. A teacher wrote me a message at the end of the day on Friday - our last day before the holiday - because one of my former students had another complete emotional breakdown. He has been struggling for much of the year and she, with a team of caring teachers, is bravely and consistently trying to do what is best for him and his family... and for the rest of her class, but it is wearing her down. You know that child. The one some teacher labeled as just "bad." The one that tries your last nerve and sometimes makes you want to scream. The one you cry over and spend sleepless nights trying to figure out a new strategy for the next day. The one that takes all of your bag of tricks and frustrates you beyond what you think you can handle. The one whose parents are either as exasperated as you are or as exasperating. The one who is "odd" and who has as many problems with his peers as he does with adults. The one who can't think past his own wants and who is often devoid of appropriate remorse. The one that you still worry about when he leaves you... It's the child that you worry about because you suspect he will make headlines one day - in a shooting tragedy like the one we just witnessed.
It's the reason that I believe in inclusion -that all children need an environment that is a microcosm of life - where they can practice and learn the lessons of feeling guilty and making it right, of standing up when someone is bullied, of sharing and feeling empathy, of knowing what is right and wrong and acting on those beliefs, of learning how to handle anger. Academics may be the reason that schools are organized, but it's life skills that are the core of what we do. If the difficult children are isolated, they may never learn the lessons that will make them contributing adults in our society. We need to reach out to them with an urgency. We need the resources to make sure that we can reach out to them. We know that the family is breaking down - we see it every day - and that many of our children will not have the nurturing comforts of a loving, two parent nuclear family - that instead they will face poverty, abuse, hatred. It is our moral - even Divine - directive as teachers to try to be the agent of change in this world filled with so much horror. We are the ones who must furnish the comfort and safety in this world if no one else can. Is it too much to ask? Of course, it is, but we will continue to do the impossible every day. My heart goes out to the teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary who faced the unbelievable and against unimaginable odds, will go on to teach another day. My heart breaks for those who lost their lives... I hope their families know that they fought the good fight and will always be our heroes. That is probably little comfort to families who lost mothers and sisters and daughters. May their sacrifice not be in vain. May we rededicate ourselves to those children who, without us, will be lost. May be continue to find our voices, and shout to the rooftops our need to be able to support these children. And every day that we walk out of school drained, close to tears, wondering how we will walk into that classroom one more day, may we remember that we ARE making a difference.