On Monday

“Mom, help me review my words because my teacher says spelling still counts.”

That’s what Baker – now a senior in college – said to me as he ran into our kitchen one day after school when he was in fifth grade.

He was pulling me out of a three-day television-aided trance I had been in since the first plane hit the World Trade Center.  Oh, I got up each day, got each child off to school, did most of the work I was supposed to be doing, but then rushed back to CNN to watch again and again what had happened, to try, again and again, to make sense of what this meant our world – my family’s world – would now be.

I’m doing the same thing again.  Since yesterday.  Since Sandy Hook Elementary School locked down and we redefined tragedy.  Again.  I’m listening intently to all the reports, reading closely all the articles, looking for anything that makes this make sense.  But of course nothing will because one can’t apply logic to what was done illogically; one can’t apply reason to what was done without reason.

And I keep remembering Baker’s fifth-grade language arts teacher who each day after the 9/11 attacks didn’t sit home staring at a screen, but instead walked into her classroom to help twenty-two youngsters through the day.  On Thursday of that week, she sent her students home reminding them to study because “spelling still counts.”  I loved her for giving those students (and me) that nudge toward normalcy.  All of the teachers in that school – in schools across this nation – during those first long weeks after 9/11 gave our nation’s children something far more important than what could ever be bubbled in on a state-mandated test.  They gave them security; they gave them time; they gave them ways to process all that had happened; and they helped them learn that each of us has the ability to get through tragic moments even when we doubt we will ever get over them.

That’s what you’ll do again.  On Monday.  And on Tuesday. And on all the rest of the days next week and the rest of this school year.  Parents will hold on to children – of all ages –  tighter, and you will, with firm resolve, assure them you are a professional who knows what to do when tragedy strikes.  Some children will cry and you will dry tears.  Some will lash out in anger and you will know that is fear rearing its head another way.  You will worry and fret and wonder what else you should do.  You will talk with other teachers and principals – who will be doing all the same things you are doing – and together you will decide what is the right plan for your school as you help your students through what will, for some, be terribly difficult days.

Yes, on Monday and for all the days that follow,  you will  prepare lessons, watch for that student who doesn’t quite grasp the point, encourage the student who hesitantly offers an idea, help the shy one make a friend, remind the bossy one to listen more.  And you’ll do what no university class ever prepared you to do:  you will show students that when tragedy strikes, hope lives and goodness can always be found. You will help students recognize that their grief shows their humanity.  You will show them that we all go on, in spite of fear, or perhaps more importantly, to spite fear. And you will, as you nudge them toward normalcy, even remind them that spelling still counts.  You will be in our nation’s classrooms, teaching our nation’s children, and for this we are a grateful nation.

Thank you.  Thank you.  And, again, thank you.

 

 

24 thoughts on “On Monday

  1. Thanks , Kyleen. I have been considering this all day. Kids across the country have been wrapped in the holiday hype and joy, and yet we will have some troubling conversations I am sure. All hands on deck to welcome them into the safest place we can make for them – school.

  2. You nailed it, and brought tears to my eyes. Real teachers live what you wrote….especially those nurturers who teach elementary. They are still “babies” in our eyes and we love them like our own. It’s who we are. It’s our calling. Bless you.

  3. Thank you for a thoughtful message, Kyleen. I feel lucky that our district’s last day was yesterday because honestly, I am having a difficult time with what happened. I can’t fathom what happened, but as you aptly stated, it is illogical. Still, it would have been a challenge to have an open discussion with my 6th grade classes. The blog reminds me of the huge responsibility that I ans all teachers have. Thank you for reminding us that no test score will ever measure that part of our daily lives.

  4. This is such a thoughtful post, Kylene. Thank you for taking the time to remind us all that we bring honor to those who are gone by honoring children (whether they’re our own or those who are in front of us for a few hours a day).
    Stacey´s last [type] ..Writing Unapologetically

  5. Thanks for the gentle reminder. I was with 7th graders after 9/11 and am with high schoolers now. Even though they are older, I still have to nudge them toward normalcy. We began our difficult conversations on Friday in the midst of rumors and news reports. I’m sure we’ll continue on Monday trying to make sense of the senseless and trying to return to normal.

  6. Thank you for putting into words what we all will do tomorrow morning. Your point (and Stacey’s too) is that we will go on teaching, caring, disciplining, and protecting the children entrusted to us because we are professionals as well as to honor those lost and hurt in this horrorific episode of our lives.
    anita.ferreri´s last [type] ..Mr Rogers and Caring People

  7. Thank you so much for this! As a teacher this is absolutely what I plan to do on Monday morning. I already have a student who is sad everyday hecomes to school because his father is a police officer and his best friends dad just wasn’t there after school one day because of a shooting at work. It was a challenge at the beginning of the year to get him to feel safe and comfortable now he loves to come to school. I worry for the parents who will be more anxious than the kids. Again thank you for your kind words and I can promise that my classroom will aid towards normalcy.

  8. Thank you for these words. Teachers will honor the children who are no longer with us by continuing to do the things they do everyday in their classrooms. Teachers are everyday heroes.

  9. Thank you for allowing us to repost this for our friends. As an educator I can’t help but reflect on everything teachers do.

    Teachers don’t just teach, we help assure that the future of our civilization is loved and protected.

    Doris
    Doris Herrmann´s last [type] ..On Monday

  10. Thanks for sharing such true words. I had just started my first year of teaching 4th grade when 9/11 happened.
    Now I have a first grade daughter of my own …

    And I am so thankful for teachers!

  11. Thank you for your words , I thought this morning as I went to church how fitting that it was raining, tears in heaven. I will return to my classroom tomorrow and try to remind myself and my students that there are more good people in the world then bad.

  12. Pingback: OTR Links 12/17/2012 « doug – off the record

  13. Thanks for this – you’ve captured all my own thoughts. This feels unreal but as one father shared (his daughter was one of the young victims) – “We cannot let this time define us.” I cannot begin to imagine this healing process.

  14. Pingback: Breaking my silence | The Paper Graders

  15. We can not lose ourselves in our classes and our kids. We can’t let everyone off the hook by pointing their fingers at one cause or another or we will be shedding stunned tears again soon. We need to care more deeply about each other and get more involved in supporting and caring for everyone. We can’t let a troubled young man slip through the cracks as has happened too often lately. As teachers and people we need to reach out further and deeper and set an example that brings us together. A President shedding tears and enjoying the children of Newtown should be a sign to us that people are ready to follow so that headlines will never carry the screams of victims. In Connecticut we are all hurting, but we also feel the support from around the world. We heartily feel that no one should ever have to face this again.

  16. What a wonderful message to help give strength to all who teach America’s children. Teaching and working with children has been my life’s work for which I feel exceptionally blessed. We will persevere and keep our students safe, happy and learning. God bless.

  17. Kylene, our semester at CMU ended before this senseless tragedy, but I know we will be processing it all when January 14 rolls around. I plan to read your post to our pre-service teachers to help them see what their futures hold.
    Thank you for helping me get the conversation started.
    Terre

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