Sunday, December 16, 2012

Monday, December 17th

I don't want to go to work tomorrow.

I don't often say this.  I love my job.  I love teaching kids.  I love feeling like somehow, in some small way, I am helping to make a difference in their lives.  

But I don't want to go tomorrow.

To be honest, I'm a little scared.  School shouldn't feel like a prison.  It should feel like a safehouse.  And Newtown does nothing if not remind us that even our safehouses aren't impenetrable.  I recognize that this fear is irrational.  That even on Friday, hundreds of thousands of kids went to school and came home safe.  And hundreds of thousands of teachers too.  But 20 kids didn't, and neither did 6 teachers.  And tomorrow, even though I'm not walking into Sandy Hook, I'm walking into a building onto which so many people project their own demons and fears.  And my kids are walking into their schools, and I don't want to drop them off.  I want to hug them and never let go.

I didn't go into education to figure out how to keep kids safe from an armed attacker.  If I wanted to do that, I would have become a police officer or a sniper.  I became a teacher because I wanted my students to know that I believe that they are good at something.  That they can be something.  That I truly believe in their ability to succeed.  But I also know that I don't reach every kid.  Hopefully every kid has someone who does reach them.  But I know they don't.  And I wonder if every kid is even reachable.  By the time kids get to high school, are some of them too sick, too damaged for us to truly make a difference?  And what then? 

And I am frustrated, no, angry, that as I sit here thinking about how to be teacher, social worker, and police officer, there are so many people out there who think that I deserve less.  That teachers are underworked and overpaid.  That we are union hacks out to indoctrinate children against their parents.  I ask: who is on the front lines?  Who catches the mentally ill kids in need of service so that they don't become Adam Lanza?  Who comforts the children who are tormented by their peers and also try to systematically address bullying so it doesn't happen to someone else's kid?  Who locks the door and huddles in the dark during the lockdown to make sure that your children are as safe as they can be?  And who does all of this while trying to instill a love of learning and also get kids to pass the test?  Who tries to catch up the kids who are behind and challenge the kids who are ahead while pitching to the majority of the kids in the middle? 

Tomorrow, I will worry all day about my two kids, who, by the grace of anything that is good in this world, will be safe in their schools tomorrow.  I will leave them in the morning and go off to meet the myriad needs of other people's children.  And I will tell myself that they are safe, and that I am safe, and that tragedy sometimes just strikes.  But what I know is that something is horribly wrong here.  Maybe it's guns.  Maybe it's mental illness.  Maybe it's something else.  But if I, a person who has committed herself to a lifetime of being an educator, don't feel good about going to work, and I don't feel good about sending my kids to school, the system is broken.  I don't know how to fix it.  But it must be fixed.

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