Like you, I am still in shock. Twenty babies were gunned down in their bright, cheerful school, innocently learning and unsuspecting of what was to come.
Their faces haunt my thoughts, come to mind when I see the smiles of my own two children. I think of their parents’ grief and I weep, crying for their pain that I can never begin to understand. I see my children’s stockings and think of 20 that will never be filled. I watch my children’s chests rise and fall in peaceful sleep and know that there are parents who would give everything they have for just one more night.
It doesn’t make any sense.
How can a mother move forward when the children who grew within her will grow no more? How does a daddy walk past the bedroom where the child will never need tucking in again? How?
It is more wrong than my words can express.
In the midst of the sadness and need for understanding, one ray of light has shone. The teachers. We have all heard the accounts of their bravery and heroics, reading Christmas stories to innocents as bullets rained right outside. Finding crayons and coloring sheets to distract little ones while evil tried to overtake. Stepping between gunman and children, sacrificing self. The teachers were heroes.
The teachers are heroes.
I am in no way trying to glorify mere people, but I am so proud of my fellow educators that I have to speak out. What these teachers did Friday is what teachers do every day. We give what is ours. For some of these in Sandy Hook, that gift was their lives.
Every day in a battle that can feel as if we are losing, teachers give. We give hours that are unpaid, money that is never reimbursed, encouragement that is unwelcome. We give suggestions that are unheeded, time that we don’t have, lessons that we learned the hard way. We receive no recognition, are talked poorly about by many, and are questioned as if we’re not professionals.
We are undeterred, though, because there is something more important than the hours, the time, the disrespect.
We become surrogate parents to our students, calling them “our kids,” seeing them not just as pupils but as our own dearly loved. They get on our last nerves, trying our patience, but come hell or high water, we will not let them go.
On a normal day, we are determined not to let them fail. We insist they complete lessons, participate in class, persevere through hard lessons. We tolerate no unkindness, teach them to encourage each other, help them to see that knowledge is powerful.
We stand between them and this evil world that wants them. We stand between them and complacency. We stand between them and the easy way out.
In Sandy Hook on a day that was not normal, the teachers stood between them and the bullets.
I have heard reports that one teacher said, “I wanted my voice to be the last thing they heard, not the gunshots…” This shows the heart of a teacher – protect the children, whatever the cost.
To those who question the value of public schools, the professionalism of its teachers – may you all, right now, know that every teacher I have met would do exactly what those in Connecticut did. We would lay down our lives for your children. We lay down our lives for them daily in our classrooms, and if, God, forbid, we were ever faced with a gun, we would still willingly give what is ours for them.