I took a personal day yesterday to take care of my holiday prep. It’s quickly spiraled out of control this year, somehow, and I just needed a day. A day to prep for the four events I have during the week next week (and that includes two on one day, folks). A day to actually get out the Christmas decorations and put them up. A day to sleep.
And I got that. But, as we all know now, I didn’t get a break from thinking about school and my job. I was still lounging around the house, post-vet visit with the pups when the news broke about the shooting, goofing off on the internet and enjoying my free time.
Throughout the day, as the news got worse and worse, I did the same thing. Went through the same routine. I absorbed the bad news, gave myself a few minutes to think about it, and then I went on with my day. It was still there, but I wasn’t glued to my computer. It didn’t render me a complete emotional mess.
Obviously, that’s not because I don’t care. I’m a teacher, a former reporter, and a deeply empathetic person. I cry when I see dead animals on the side of the road. So 20 small children dying in a senseless crime? Of course I’m upset.
As easy as it would be to allow myself to get sucked in to watching the news and waiting for the next press conference, I decided to keep moving. I realized, while reading an article about how to help children through tragedy, that taking shelter in routine applies not just to children, but adults as well. We all need to be mindful of what will really help – like keeping up the routine, letting ourselves ‘feel our feelings,’ and finding a way to feel like we’re doing something to help if necessary.
Because right now, we are a nation of hurt and, frankly, broken people.
You can see that we’re a broken nation not just in the photos of weeping parents and candlelight vigils, the footage of our President wiping away tears and small children comforting each other, but also in the heated arguments breaking out on social media. There are people who advocate taking guns away completely. There are people who advocate training all school personnel to shoot and giving them a weapon to have in the classroom. And in both cases, these are strong emotional reactions. Even those of us who exist somewhere in between these two extremes, we are passionate about these beliefs because we associate them with this horrible tragedy now. And if that debate isn’t enough, there are people out there who are talking about how dangerous our schools have become and what we should do about it – not exactly what a shaken parent wants to hear before they send their kid back for one more week of learning until winter break arrives.
These people are putting the focus on laws and politics when it belongs on supporting those affected by this tragedy and in need of comfort.
What we need to remember as we all continue to reel from this event is that arguing isn’t going to solve anything. It isn’t going to make us feel better at all. And right now? Right now is not a time for finger-pointing or politics.
Last night, I got a text from a friend that I opted not to answer. It read:
“So what’s your take on this thing as a teacher?”
Can of worms, I am not opening you. It’s a wax-sealed and hand-delivered invite to a throw down on politics that’s guaranteed to get messy. But I will say this: I truly believe that every teacher, upon hearing about this tragedy, immediately thought about their own private emergency plan.
Every teacher knows, in the back of their minds, and in the most secret part of their hearts, what they would do if they were in the same situation as the teachers at Sandy Hook were yesterday. Most of us don’t talk about it, because it’s morbid and disturbing. And, even though we receive training in what to do, that doesn’t mean that the training will protect us, especially not if the attack comes from inside our own classrooms.
But I’ll admit readily that if a gunman – adult or student – came into my portable, you can bet your ass that I would protect all of my students with everything I have. I know where I would put my kids to best protect them from the windows, how I would barricade the entry and access points, and what instructions I would give them in case they need to escape on their own eventually. Because to me, if you’re in a position to protect people, it’s because that’s what you’re meant to do – whether you’re a police officer, a teacher, a doctor, or even just a parent.
I’ve known that fact since I was a PA in the dorms, and after that horrible shooting that left an RA as the first known casualty at Virginia Tech my sophomore year. I knew that I could very easily be in that same position, and even though that was a huge shock, it didn’t make me want to quit anymore than this tragedy makes me scared to go back to work.
I love my students. I work my butt off to help them become amazing people and learn how to not only contribute to the world but also be happy while they do it. The kids don’t scare me. Going to work in a school doesn’t scare me. What does scare me is that one day, something might come into my classroom that I may not be able to protect them from. I can imagine that this is how parents fear for their children…if you times what I feel for my students by a million, of course.
So I suggest that we all acknowledge that this event is not a call to action or an invitation for political debate. Not right now, anyway.
This morning I opened the door to two very sweet ladies, handing out pamphlets about what to do in the face of tragedy and depression. They also read some scripture from Revelations about what they think the children can look forward to, the silver lining they see to this horrible act. And they told me, in very straightforward terms, that they just wanted to provide support for those who may be affected in this community. To be there for people who needed a little ray of brightness.
Let’s take a page from their book, whether it’s their own personal rules for operating or the Bible that they read from this morning. Let’s refocus that misdirected anger on something we can actually do: give their families, and ourselves, time to grieve before we start making this whole mess uglier than it already is. Support our friends and neighbors. Don’t turn this into another fight.
Let’s give them time to heal.