This was my day

As I got to school this morning, 90 minutes before the start of the day, I tried to do what I always do on Mondays.  Change the “Jobs chart”, set out the “Before School Work”, organize the art supplies.

But I kept being interrupted by my friends, my colleagues, my teaching buddies.  “How are you?”, we asked each other, before breaking down in tears.  “I’m so sad.”  “I’m afraid.”  “I don’t know what to say to them.”  We tried to comfort each other, knowing that there could be no comfort for people who unexpectedly found ourselves on the front line in a war we did not create.  We hugged, we cried, we squared our shoulders and we promised each other that we would do what was best for our kids.  As always.

Some time later, the children arrived with big eyes and false smiles. They joked with me and  did the morning routines and started in on their history work, but they were watching me closely the whole time.

I didn’t want to greet each one with “Did you hear about what happened in Connecticut?”, so I bided my time. I wanted to see how they were feeling. I wanted to take the temperature of the room.

It was interesting.  So many of them were “tired”.  So many said that they had a “headache” or a “bug bite” or a “sore foot”. They wanted the nurse. They wanted a hug. They wanted their moms.

As I waited for everyone to arrive, I moved quietly around the classroom.  No one was upset, no one was openly scared.  But you know what I heard, as my ten year old students were filling in the worksheet about American history?  This is what I heard:

“My Mom and Dad didn’t want to talk about it, but my Mom kept crying.”                                        “My Mom said that one teacher tried to save her kids by locking them in a closet.  I wish we had a closet.”                                                                                                                                           “If a guy with a sniper scope was standing in that yard, he could shoot in this window.”             “It was really little kids that got killed.  Just first graders.”

And there I was; the only line of defense between them and insanity.  My aging, out of shape self, hoping that I could shield them from the copycats, the snipers, the crazies with the super weapons.

I don’t understand.   I just don’t.

We are a SCHOOL.  I am a TEACHER.

I can’t morph myself into the power of Vengeance Woman, as much as I would like to do that.  I would like to take every single “gun rights” advocate who believes in weapons that can fire a hundred rounds of ammunition without stopping, and I would like to beat them senseless with a dictionary.   I would like to magically absorb all of those weapons of mass destruction, and melt them down into a puddle of molten ore.   I would like to find the head of the NRA and make him come into my classroom and explain to my trembling children why his right to play with his toys is more important than their right to learn without fear of assault and death.

I can’t stop mental illness. I can’t prevent family trauma.  I can’t step in to prevent an obsession with violent video games.

I’m just a nice, ordinary public school teacher!  I didn’t sign on for ANY of this.

So what can I do?

I can write letters to my elected officials (as I have done so many times before!) and I can ask these questions, in the voices of my students:

1) WHY do people need those guns?

2) Why are they allowed to buy guns that kill so many people in so little time? What is the purpose of those guns? What is the reason for their existence, if not to kill me and my friends?

3) Are you going to try to protect me, or are you going to leave my fate in the hands of “gun shows” and on line gun dealers?

4) How are you going to look at yourself in the mirror the next time that a sad and desperate young man turns his Sig Sauer on a group of children like me?  Will you be able to tell your grandchildren that you did everything you could to save us?

5) Why are you more worried about your NRA sponsors than you are about my future?

I am so tired.  I will try to sleep, try to keep the bad dreams at bay, try to go back in to school tomorrow in the hopes that the man with the sniper scope isn’t aiming for my window.

34 thoughts on “This was my day

  1. Yes, this was my day too 😦 The “stand up meeting” before school where we went over Code Red procedures and how to explain them to first graders without scaring them. No one mentioned it at all in my room, but they were all out of sorts. So were the teachers 😦 Stay strong. We didn’t sign on for it, but here we are. Sending prayers for a good night’s sleep your way.


  2. Opinion alert: They don’t “need” those guns; they “want” those guns. And, honestly, I don’t know why they “want” them. It’s not about personal protection or hunting with those kinds of guns. I am a bleeding heart (love people; underneath all the stuff, they’re beautiful beings) who blatantly begs for some control of our nation’s firearms, but the powers of this gun-bearing nation are strong, Teach. I hope for the protection of our peoples, especially our trusting innocents.


  3. Oh Moms, it’s not just the children who need hugs and comfort. You teachers need it too. And neither of you should. This is senseless. Stupid. Fucking predictable.

    It occurred to me this morning that the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness came long before, 15 years before, the fucking 2nd Amendment. We need to remember that that is our guiding principle. That’s what I’m putting in my letters. Part of it.

    Stay strong, Moms. And let yourself grieve, because you need to. But I have no doubt that you would do whatever you possibly could for your students. But let’s work together to change the world so that you don’t have to.

    Sending you much love, and wishing you some rest.


    • Thank you, Elyse, thank you. For your support, your comments, and for writing to those so called “leaders” about this issue. Nothing will happen if we don’t make it happen. NO MORE weapons of war in the hands of the citizens, MORE access to mental health services and a calling out of the gun toting blowhards for what they are. That’s my agenda! Grrr….


  4. There aren’t words to say thanks for what you do to make children feel safe.

    And you can also teach them about mental illness, and how important it is to treat it like otehr illnesses and not stigmatize it the way it has been, and will continue to be, especially after this.


    • So incredibly true!
      I have been focusing my foaming at the mouth rage on the weapons, because I get sick hearing that they aren’t the problem. But I am also upset that mental illness is so stigmatized, and that good quality care is so hard to get!


  5. Can I just say to start off that I’m sending you a bit Scottish hug.

    This is awful and in some respects there are simply no words and things need to change and for me there is simply no good enough reason why they don’t. However I live in Scotland and things are different here. After the shooting in the school here in Dunblane in 1996 the Government did make changes. Important changes. However, there is also a big debate about mental health and how we support people, how we tackle the taboo that is mental health and really, really provide the care the people need.

    I can’t begin to imagine in your role as a teacher how you deal with all of this, how you answer the questions and how you absorb all the unspoken words from students, teacher and parents. In your role you are clearly providing so much support during such a difficult time. I hope you get the much deserved support AND change you need.

    I leave you with a wee Scottish saying… “Were it not for hope the heart would break”.


    • Oh, what a lovely saying! As I sit here, my friend, your scarf is in my hands. A letter to you is on its way!
      It has been hard, but the amazing resilience of children and the energy and life force that comes from them, really has been healing.
      Merry Christmas!


  6. So very eloquent and so very sad. The nation needs to hear from all of our wonderful teachers. No one should have to go to school fearing what might happen that day.


    • Its been sort of a strange irony; teachers have been vilified and ignored for so long in the American press and political landscape. Think of Wisconsin; we have no right to collective bargaining, our pensions are way to generous. Now, though, everyone expects us to give our lives for our kids. Well; that’s kind of what we’ve been saying all along! We love our students, we love our jobs, we believe in the future and we happily work to shape that future.
      We just didn’t expect to have to die for it.
      This has been the worst event of my life, in terms of the big, historical happenings. Worse than the Kennedy shooting, worse than 9/11, worse than Columbine. This really hit me where my heart lives.

      Thanks for your support, your thoughts, your comment here. I can’t begin to tell you how much it means!


  7. You were one of the first people I thought of last Friday. I wondered how things were going for you since then. Know that I am sending warm wishes, good thoughts and thanks for all that you do – and have done for years – for your kids.


  8. What a lovely thing to say; thank you so much!
    I am still surprised by how this event has left us all so overwhelmed with grief and shock. Luckily, when you are surrounded by smiling children, its hard to stay afraid. They are so full of life. It has been hardest on my first grade colleagues; all those sweet little faces, looking up at them with trust and hope. I am sad for my whole country; and determined to make a change.


  9. I’m so very sorry you have to end up with this sort of fear. I’m sorry to the depth of my being, momshieb. As a little 8 year old said, “Wouldn’t God have something like a remote control with a stop button?”

    We…all of us…are the remote control. This will not waft off into the air like a puff of smoke. Not this time. We have to push the “speak up” button. We may not have a solution yet, but we all can say “enough” and no longer accept inaction and apathy.


  10. Pingback: Friday Foolishness – Beauty Sleep Edition | Guapola

  11. You have spoken so eloquently…….My heart hurts to read this…for you, for your children……you have been placed in an impossible situation. You are a hero….you showed up to school on Monday, prepared to cradle each little heart in your hands..You have my utmost respect.
    If there is any march, any contact info that you are given so that we can protest..will you post it please? I want to do as much as I can to make them put away their “toys”.


    • Thank you!
      I need to move out of my rage state and into action: I don’t know of any protest, but you’ve inspired me to find something, some action that can maybe have an impact.
      I did write to both Obama and Biden, plus my state senator and congressmen. I have also been supporting groups like “Stop Handgun Violence” and “The Brady Campaign” for many years. Maybe we need to start something out here, and get a movement going? “Occupy the NRA” comes to mind……


      • Let me know if you come up with something…..I was appalled to hear the NRA’S “solution” to the problem..A gun in every school…..just totally out of touch with the mood of this country,,,just appalling…


  12. Yesterday I happened to log in to the BBC News website just as Wayne La Pierre, the NRA president, was given his live news conference. The last time I was this angry was when the Taliban shot Malala Yousafzai – the 15 year old Pakistani girl who was attacked for wanting to go to school. Actually, I think I was more angry, because this was an ostensibly educated man with whom I supposedly share a common culture, speaking to me in my own language.

    There will be people who say that foreigners have no right to comment on what is an internal problem for the United States. Children and teachers being shot dead isn’t an American problem, it’s a human problem: if I’m free to criticize the Taliban, I’m free to criticize to the NRA. Free speech, freedom from fear, the right to education, the right to a childhood and the right to life are (or should be) the birthright of everyone on the planet.

    Today I used the information in your previous comment to find out about organizations that are challenging the gun lobby and made a donation to the Brady Campaign. This Christmas I’m going to write letters to Mr Obama, to the US ambassador, to the National Rifle Association and, if I can find the words, to the Mayor of Newtown. There’s enormous value in the symbolic lighting of candles and the tolling of bells, but candles and bells are not enough – the time for action has come.

    So here’s for wisdom to you and your fellow teachers as you deal with the fallout from Sandy Hook in your classrooms and here’s strength to you and your fellow citizen’s as you write, march or occupy.

    “It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness”


    • I am sorry that you have to feel this intense rage, but so happy that I am not feeling it alone!
      Not only do you have the right to comment on the insanity in the US, I believe that you have the moral obligation to comment. I hope that this time if we all scream loud enough, those in power will hear us.


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