I was coming out of an IEP meeting at another school on Friday afternoon when I heard the news. Not quite processing what was happening, not quite understanding what was being said on the radio, I sat in my car instead of driving away. I knew all the words individually, but when they were put together I couldn't make sense of them. It couldn't be right.
I was immediately hit with a need to drive back to my own class, who I knew was preparing for dismissal to hug them and reassure myself that they were safe, along with the same urgent need to drive to my daughter's daycare and hug her tightly.
I still can't quite process the news. I don't think any of us can. We are all desperately grasping for something to hang on to- something to blame, something that explains what happens, something that will identify an easy fix. Gun control, school safety, an increase in mental health services, a desire to put God back into the schools- these are all things I've heard and read about in the past 48 hours.
If only it was that simple. For us to be able to say, "All we need to do is fix x and y will never happen again." We need that. I need that.
From my own perspective on the world I find myself blaming mental health services. If this boy had gotten more help, if we'd been better prepared as a society to help one another when someone doesn't fit into the box, if we'd offer more opportunities for counseling and therapy. But that's just what I find myself hanging on to for answers, something to comfort myself when I wonder how it even happened.
I don't think we'll ever have answers we desperately want. Somehow, we- teachers across the country- have to enter their classrooms tomorrow and tell ourselves everything is OK. We will hug and smile and talk to our children. Sing our routine songs, laugh at jokes, and practice whatever drills the schools will ask us to practice. If the children bring it up we'll talk about it, we'll talk with counselors, we'll read books, we'll listen to our children's fears. Nothing tangible has changed within our own buildings, yet everything has changed.
I think every teacher looks into the eyes of the photograph of the teachers who were killed and says a silent prayer, knowing that it could have been us. We are all praying for those beautiful teachers who spent their last moments protecting their students. I can only imagine what they went through- that last desperate desire to protect their students with everything they had.
If you haven't taught, haven't had a classroom of students to yourself, haven't fallen in love with a bunch of little people who have truly no relationship to you outside of your professional life, it's a love that may be hard to understand.
When you teach your students become your own children. Your classroom becomes your family, your daily reality, the little people you spend the majority of your waking hours with. To think of anyone wanting to harm those little people- those people we spend hours agonizing worrying over- is heartbreaking and terrifying. We have the power to do so much for our students- yet we don't have the power to prevent their exposure to such truly horrible events. Those little ones who can drive us crazy and consume all of our time- what we feel for them as teachers is a true love.
In writing this I am simply trying to process it all myself. I have no message, no understanding, no clear form of how I am going to begin or end this blog post. They are just words, put together, whose meaning is still a bit unclear.
Tomorrow I will go to school. We will sing our good morning song, work on making eye contact, using full sentences, and smiling when we see people. We will do our reading centers and sing our math songs. We'll have a dance party while we practice counting by tens. Because of the nature of my class I don't expect anyone to ask about Friday's events. On the outside it will look like everything is the same, but inside we will know that it will never be the same again.