Saturday, December 15, 2012

Dealing with Tragedy

The events of yesterdays shootings in Newtown, Connecticut are still buried deep inside my heart.  While I am not a parent, I am a teacher, and the students in my grade one class mean everything to me. They are my  family and the thought of having such terror roar through their lives leaves me with utter sadness.  I'm not even sure this blog post will help, but it is a way for me to try to deal with what I'm feeling.

First off, I admire and honour the adults who did everything in their power to protect the innocent children.  I often wonder if the general public really understands what we do as teachers.  I get so tired of reading the negative press about my profession, when I know I work extremely hard to love, care, honour, and foster curiousity within my students.   In such a tragedy as this one I truly believe that I would have done anything to protect the lives of my special students too.  I've thought about where I'd hide them, how I would keep them safe, and what I would sacrifice for them. Those teachers that lost their lives while protecting their students are heros in every sense of the word.  The world can never have too many heroes.

Secondly my heart hurts for the families, and the community as a whole.  I know how I feel when one of my students gets hurt - it hurts me too.  I feel their pain and I am only their teacher.  So knowing that there is just so much pain in Newtown right now my heart aches and I can only hope that the out pouring of love and support is bringing some kind of comfort to such a tragic event.  Their lives have been changed for ever, and the reality is mine has too.  While I'm all for change, I'm having a real hard time dealing with this type of change. I just seem so unjust. I know there is a lesson in all this for me to learn, I just wish it didn't have to hurt so much to learn it.

Thirdly the shooting makes me look a little more closly at the relationships that I have had in my classroom with my students over my 21 years of teaching. Over those years there  have been very few that I have not been able to connect with.  Each child has been unique and special, and they have all come into my world for a specific purpose.  Whether it was to teach me to be more patient, or to push me little harder, or to just stop and listen more, they have all had a purpose in my life.

I think one of the things that bothers me most about this situation is that the shooter could have been one of my students in the past.  Did I fail him? Do I fail some of my own students? I most certainly hope not, but my reality is, I most likely have at some point in my career. That reality scares me. It has me thinking about what more I could do for my students, particularly those that are harder to connect with.

Right now I do bring up every student I am concerned about to my school based team. I realize that the reality is there is often little support available for them but I am not going to sit back and let their issues go unnoticed.  I am not afraid to speak to parents, and I am not afraid to share my concerns. But should I try a little harder, make them see my concerns a little more? Can I fight every battle and if I don't can I live with myself for letting a little person down.  Perhaps this is the guilt stage of my grieving process kicking in.  And perhaps this is why I struggle with good never being good enough, and why I have such a thirst for knowledge because if I ever stop learning, I will be letting down the little people in my world, and myself in the process.

I think I  do a good job of letting my students know how glad I am to have them in my class, how important they are to me, and how special they are as people. I do my best to let them know that I care about them, and that I love them very much.  And that even when they do something inappropriate, it is the behaviour that I am upset with and NOT the person. They are my school family.  So on Monday morning when I see my students for the first time after this tragic even,  I am going to do my very best to make sure every student in my class knows that they are important, valued and loved.

In the meantime I will continue to think, process, and deal with this horrific tragedy. I will keep those suffering near and dear to my heart.


  1. Karen

    Your post speaks to our deep connections with our students. We develop strong relationships based on all of the moments we share together. It is very challenging to deal with this as a teacher. I think we all have given thought to what could I do to keep my children safe? And to Monday morning . . . Thanks for giving voice to what so many of us are feeling

  2. As Carrie has said, thank you for giving voice to what so many of us are feeling. My heart aches for the people who have experienced loss, the horrific events witnessed by innocent souls, and the tears that have fallen around the world as we all grieve. We all put ourselves in their shoes and have processed what we would do, but the reality is we cannot predict nor should we have to. But I do know we would all do everything in our power to make rational decisions to keep those in our care safe. Those we love and adore. The children with whom we connect with on a daily basis to foster happiness, growth, and laughter. Relationships we build with our whole heart.

    Thank you for your post. Thank you for sharing your reflection with the rest of us. Thank you for allowing me to share mine with you. ~Celina

  3. You said it all and you said it well. Those connections we make with our students are deep and serious. Parents entrust us with their precious children and we take on a huge responsibility in return. I'm retired now, but I recall how each day after Labour Day I woud meet my new class and pledge silently that I would be the best teacher I could be, and treat each child with the greatest respect. Like you, I sometimes feel guilty for not always making the connection I wish I could have made, and sometimes running out of energy when the class was overly large or the number of students with serious issues was too great. We have to forgive ourselves; we are all human. Thank you, Ms. Lirenman, for writing today.