Saturday, December 15, 2012
The Words of a Teacher, a Mother, and Just a Person With a Heart
Yesterday morning, I was in a great mood. I was full of excitement and happiness about the day that was going to unfold. All of the kids in the school were going to be participating in a school wide Christmas celebration. I would be hosting craft sessions with my class, 3rd graders, 8th graders, and 7th graders. The kids were excited. There was a fun buzz to the air. The week was finally coming to end, and the day was going to end with a celebration.
Then, just as I was about to lead my kids out for recess after lunch, someone told me something that buckled me at the knees and took all the wind out of me. "Did you hear about the shooting in Connecticut at an elementary school? They say about 20 kids were killed?" I stood there, in shock. I looked at my class - standing there patiently waiting for me - and my eyes filled with tears.
I shook it off. I had to. I couldn't let my kids see fear or pain in my eyes... it wasn't fair to them. I had nothing more than a brief encounter of the news to go on...and I just had to leave it at that, for the sake of the kids. My kids.
I went out for recess duty even though it was my day off. I didn't have to, but for some reason I just couldn't let my kids out of my sight. I sat with the other teachers, and they shared what they had heard. The early rumors, the early reports.
Something stirred in me after those conversations. The excitement I had felt about the approaching celebration started to slip away. All that filled my head were the thoughts of my biological and non-biological children roaming the hallways as they moved from classroom to classroom for the entire afternoon. I didn't want them out there. I didn't want them exposed. They needed to be with me, where I could see them.
I tried to push down all of the fear and regrets. The show must go on - just for the sake of the kids. Thankfully, I was able to buckle down and have a good time... the whole time wondering where my kids were, what they were doing.
The day ended. Everyone had a lot of fun. All of the staff were called for a quick meeting to be briefed on the events. As my principal stood in front of us to give us the news that had been reported, there weren't many dry eyes in the place. Twenty-six people had their lives taken by a shooter... about 20 of them being small children between the ages of 5 and 10. We stood there in shock and horror. The only question in our minds was WHY? The only question that will probably never be answered.
When I arrived at Jelly's daycare, I rushed in to get her. I stood there hugging her, fighting back even more tears. The drive home, I kept an upbeat conversation going. I soaked in the moments of time that were passing me by while we laughed together. My heart swelled as my blessings were hitting me. My three beautiful children, with me, safe.
It occurred to me that I take moments like that for granted. The little moments. Times when we have silly conversations and laugh. Times where we all sit in front of the TV together. Times when we share about our day. I hope that, moving forward, those little moments will be a little more important to me now. I have to bask in them. Create them. Live for them. Being a mother is a job with the greatest of benefits and pay. No money enters my hand - but I'd rather take laughs and hugs than money ANY DAY.
And then there's my actual job. In all of the years that I've wanted to be a teacher, I've never taken a moment to think about what I would do in situation like this one. I suppose it's because I've been one of those people that claim that stuff like that wouldn't happen to me. But, looking at the news as it unfolds - I believe that the teachers in that building felt the same way. It was a small town, low crime rate, small children. Why on earth would a school like that be a target?
Now, it's all I'm thinking about. I've never felt such an overwhelming feeling of desperation, panic, or love for children that were not my own as I did yesterday. The kids that come in to my classroom each day aren't related to me. They aren't of my blood. In plain terms, they are just my job. They are the products I manufacture and mold to pass out of the assembly line. Except they're not.
They may not be blood, but they are my family. I would do whatever it took to protect them - I know that without a shadow of a doubt. And I hope with everything inside of me, that if the day ever came where my biological children were with their teachers and something horrible happened - their teachers would feel the same way about them as I do about the kids in my class.
In a devastating, heinous act such as this one that took place in Connecticut, the realization of the importance of my job comes brimming to the surface at terrifying speeds. I am not just a teacher. My job is not just about teaching kids. I am a protector. A caregiver. A defender of children. An advocate for the development of young minds. A creator of dreams. A solider for protecting those dreams. My service to these children does not begin at 8am and end at 3pm. It starts in August, and never ends. Each August, I just add more names to the roster. The kids from the previous year may not be in my classroom anymore, but they are never gone from my heart.
I took an unspoken pledge when I became a teacher. I pledged to the parents who entrust me with the lives of their most sacred gifts, that I would protect those lives, love each and every one of them as if they were my own, provide them with care and love, show them the importance of education and the importance of having a mission in life. I will forever live by that pledge. Now more than ever.
I didn't become a teacher for the money. I didn't become a teacher to teach math or reading. I didn't become a teacher for the summers and holidays off. I became a teacher because the lives of children mean something to me. I want to be a part in molding the future generation. I want to give love to children who desperately need it, and provide even more to those who already get their fair share.
I am a teacher. I am a mother.
And because of those two things, I am honored and privileged with the blessings in my life. The lives of children.