Today was my first day back in my classroom since hearing about the Newtown, CT tragedy last week.
It was a troubling day for many reasons. Some of my students mentioned it. Little kids got shot, Mrs. Tirrito. I know.
Children hugged me in the hallway today…children I don’t know yet.
A couple of my teaching friends are overwhelmed and one said, “I’ve taught all these years and did not realize the full extent of my responsibility until last Friday.”
Where would we put our kids? There are no closets, no places to hide.
We are sick at heart for many reasons.
The most obvious of course: young lives lost.
This is one of those times in life when you become aware…painfully aware, of the truths about life.
The initial news came across my phone Friday as I looked around a graduation stadium in Lubbock, TX.
Thousands of people were there, like me, to celebrate.
Do they know our world just changed?
We bowed our heads in prayer there, and the next day at a different graduation ceremony, in Waco.
Moments of silence. Prayers for a nation.
My children escaped this nightmare. They did not face a gunman in their classroom at age six. Will their children? Will they, should they choose to teach? Will I?
I see a small child a few seats ahead of me. He’s dressed in suit and tie. He might be four. I want to grab him, hug him, tell him to be safe, to be careful, to live.
My eyes fill with tears.
A classroom filled with children like him is gone. Gone.
I think of my colleague, Paula, a kindergarten teacher. She messages me throughout the day. Sick at heart. We grieve for children we’ve never known.
Yet we know them all. Another truth.
There are people all around, laughing, cheering. A thousand plus miles away, a town grieves. But the truth is, those people have celebrations too.
There are weddings. Graduations. Births. Parties.
And that is another truth that is so hard to take. In the midst of every trial, someone rejoices. It seems unfair.
But the truth is life does indeed go on.
Babies die, hearts break, shots are fired.
And still we eat, mark off our to do lists, go about our lives.
Another truth: teachers are alone.
I’ve said it for years: this is a profession of isolation in many ways. There is one teacher in a classroom, and she must make decisions based on student response every minute of every day.
There is no time in the school day for collaboration. That’s for meetings, staff development. The real
life teaching, though, is done behind closed doors when the teacher makes decisions that aren’t “in the book.”
In the real day of teaching, the teacher is alone. She is on her own to make decisions. She doesn’t look at pamphlets and emails and shelter in place protocols when the danger happens. She acts and she knows she will have to act alone. There will be no help coming. Not in time.
That truth is hard to take, but it is the reality and every educator knows it.
In the weeks to come, districts will send out reminders. There will be emails and meetings and an effort to correct some lapses in security at every school in this nation.
The truth? Teachers will read the memo.
And they’ll know it is just words on a page.
When the real trial comes, they’ll do everything that’s not on that list.
They know the truths about children and safety and vulnerability and now the nation knows it too.