My life pretty much stopped as I heard the news about Sandy Hook. I was shaken beyond belief. I could not stop crying. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t function. As a former first grade teacher, this hit too close to home for me, as I am sure it did for most of my followers. My heart just aches for the entire community, the staff at Sandy Hook, and mostly for the families of the victims.
As I found solace in the camaraderie of the teaching community on Facebook, I couldn’t help but notice a post about the bravery of teachers in general. Most of the comments were extremely positive and uplifting, but I did notice one person that expressed her “disgust” with teachers and said that she felt like we were all patting ourselves on the back. Someone else made a comment that the staff members who died protecting their students were not special at all, what they did was “human instinct.”
I’ve spent some time processing these comments and reflecting. This is my response to anyone that thinks teachers are looking for a pat on the back or believe that these individuals didn’t do anything out of the ordinary…
As a teacher, there is an unspoken understanding that once those children enter my classroom, I become their “substitute mother.” It’s not in the job description or in my contract, it is something that comes from within and just happens. From that first day of meeting my students, they become “mine.” I am responsible for each child in my classroom. I push them to do their best. I encourage them to work hard. I praise them endlessly and scold them when they need it. I expect them to show their manners. I teach them how to get along with others. I give them hugs when they are hurt, when they do something I am proud of, or “just because.” I hold their little hands as we walk down the hallway. We laugh together, sing songs, and dance. I show them how to be a good friend. I am there to cheer them up when their feelings are hurt or when their best friend doesn’t want to play with them. I comfort them when they are sad. I hear every tattle and injustice in their little worlds and teach them how to handle disappointments. I encourage and model kindness and instill empathy for others. I tell them over and over how much I care about them, and yes, I tell them that I love them. I invest my time and energy into each one of my students and after my day is finished, I’ve spent more time with them than my own family. I will do everything in my power to protect them and keep them safe.
I would die for them.
When those parents leave their children with me, it is my duty to do whatever it takes to make sure they go home safely, even if it means that my own children would be motherless.
I would never ask for anyone to “pat me on the back.” This is the profession I chose. This IS my calling. Yes, protecting a child might be a “human instinct,” but it is deeper than that. These students are MY children. Each one has a piece of my heart.
Teachers do extraordinary things EVERY SINGLE DAY.