As a teacher and a parent of a pre-kindergarden student, the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday breaks my heart. I can’t keep myself from clicking on tribute pages on CNN.com and looking at those sweet innocent faces and reading the stories of the heroic teachers. Collectively, our country is asking a lot of questions today. Why? How can we stop something like this? Why? Who could do such a thing? Why? Where was God?… Why? I cannot answer any of these things, but I can ask myself why this tragedy hits me so hard.
The first reason is obvious, the magnitude of the death toll and the fact that most of the victims were children makes this event particularly heart wrenching. Added on top of that is that it occurred just a week and a half before Christmas, the very holiday in which we celebrate the Nativity of Christ and the innocence of children. Many of the victim’s profiles I’ve read talked about what the children wanted for Christmas this year. I think about our plans for the next week and how our older son is SO excited for Jesus’ birthday. I think about all of the joy that our boys bring to our lives and how motherhood has made me a better person. I just cannot fathom having that ripped away from me.
The second reason this tragedy has affected me so much is that it occurred in the classroom. This is a sacred space. As a parent, I entrust our children to the care of their teachers each day believing that the school is one of the safest places they can be. As a teacher I simply feel violated. My students are adults and, for the most part, can take care of themselves, but some things are the same in the college classroom as they were on that very first day of school. No matter the age of the student, if they do not feel safe they cannot learn. Every time a student walks into a classroom they open themselves up to knowledge and face their weaknesses. They are incredibly vulnerable inside that classroom. School should be a safe space where the worries of the world are left outside and students are free to learn. It should provide a pathway to success, and should not be a dead end.
We spend a lot of time on this blog talking about different teaching methods, new technologies and the daily struggles of education, things that seem trivial in light of the tragedy. Today I just want to thank God for my vocation. I truly love what I do and I know that the teachers that gave their lives as Sandy Hook did too. The best thing I can do to honor them is to be the best teacher that I can be and to not let this horrific event cloud my life with fear.