After Newtown: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3….

Then it was Monday and so, as usual, we came back to school after the weekend. I just didn’t expect it to be as difficult as it was.

Part of me needed to go back to school, to be among colleagues who surely would know what to do if something as terrifying as what happened at Sandy Hook were to unfold in our building.

I needed to get back to business as usual. I had papers to return and my 7th graders were scheduled to sit for an in class essay.

As usual, I left before it was light out and pulled into my unofficial spot in Lot # 1.  And as usual, only one other car–a Camry belonging to my humanities counterpart– was parked at our end of the lot. So far, so good.

That’s when, for a split second, I hesitated before opening my car door. I didn’t expect that.

Crazy, I told myself.  This has been business as usual for the past ten years.  This is our school on a pastoral campus where deer and wild turkeys are the biggest distractions.  Our grounds are the envy of my teacher friends: a pool, manicured shrubbery, several playgrounds. Our building is airy and open.

Crazy to be scared.  Then again, maybe not.

With fresh eyes, I scanned the wooded area surrounding the building.  I lost count trying to enumerate the doors that bring people into the building. I thought about the wall I share with the Spanish classes and remembered the door joining the two classrooms that has never, in ten years, been locked.

Then I thought about those 20 first graders and their teachers.

Nothing in school will ever be the same. Not yesterday.  Not today.  Not tomorrow.  Not ever.

There is apprehension in our building and yes, there is also fear. We are fumbling with keys and, even though it is inconvenient, we are keeping our classroom doors closed and locked.  People are staking out safe spots in our corridor.  “The teachers’ bathrooms with the deadbolt locks are the best places to take your kids, if you can get there.” And it is true.  You could squeeze a lot of kids into each one of those four restrooms.

But  I look around my classroom and there really are no other places to hide, no closets, nowhere to become invisible.  Because a school is not meant to be a place to hide. A school is where every kid should feel happy and proud and above all else, safe.

A school is where a child experiences the exhilaration of reading a chapter book or doing ten jumping jacks without stopping.   A school is where kids can take the stage together and belt out the middle school rendition of The Good Life.  A school is where everyone can wear pajamas on Spirit Day. A school is where the biggest worry of the day should be about too much homework and a jammed locker.

Some people say the answer is to arm teachers. Seriously?  Would target practice then become part our new APPR agreement?  Guess I will have to be satisfied with an ineffective in that domain.

When the Newtown teachers and their kids return to school, it will never be business as usual.  But it will be an act of monumental courage to reestablish a new routine.

2 thoughts on “After Newtown: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3….

  1. I think back to when I attended school as a student. We lived with another type of fear-nuclear war. I don’t remember “lock-downs” but I do remember bomb shelters, crawling under our desks and covering our heads with our arms, and black and white movie reels displaying the red army marching. The narrator’s ominous voice and the symbol of a hammer and sickle always bought chills to my body. Then, we feared the end of the world.
    The difference between that fear and the fear we feel today is that the danger is in our own backyard. It is not the consequence of political leaders, but the consequence of guns in the hands of the unstable. It is true fear because we have witnessed the act itself. The fear is not a picture of a hammer and sickle, but the unthinkable images of beautiful children who have lost their lives. It is real because a teacher made the ultimate sacrifice.
    I am determined not to make this fear define my day to day existence. I will not allow the unthinkable act of violence to control how I live my life. But I know that the images of 20 innocent children and seven heroic adults are not coming from a grainy movie reel. I know that the faces of these precious angels will be forever in my mind and heart.

  2. There are 85 Americans shot dead by guns every day – 53 are suicides, and the rest by accident or violence. If this rate continues, gun deaths will exceed auto deaths in 2015. Many will argue that with more than 300 million guns in America, new gun laws will have little immediate effect. They are right. However, that’s the same argument that was used against mandating auto seat belt laws in 1984. Initially it had little effect, but we’re all a lot safer 28 years later as a result of this. It’s time to start now.

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