One of those days that pushes you as a teacher that makes you question why you would put yourself out there in such a vulnerable way. No other career I have had have I literally felt like my heart was on my sleeve for everyone to pick apart as they choose. Most days I shoulder the burden quite well. But yesterday wasn’t one of those days. I found myself questioning my own decision and purpose in this field. Can I contribute to it when I am literally dealing with the other bullshit of the day? And those who are teachers understand exactly what I mean when I say that.
Then during lunch I hear of the horrible tragedy and I just know it is going to be a too much kind of day. At school I can shelter myself and keep busy. But at home I know what awaits me there. Three girls who want to know why. So I came home and waited to see if they knew and thankfully they didn’t. They were full of giggles and bickering. “Momma, can we please watch the Muppet movie?” Without hesitation I squeak out yes. Buried in a movie versus every news channel running the same feed over and over. A feed I had yet to succumb to.
They are all settled and I do what I do. I turn it on. I take it in the small little five minute segments because I just can’t handle it. It is too easy. I flash to my classroom and my kids. I am touched by the vulnerability of the day I had coupled with the sadness for my unknown fellow teachers.
The bond of education is not all that different than the miscarriage club, mommy club or divorce club. Fill in whatever club you want. We all got a ticket to one or two and we know the kinship that exists there. But teachers do this thing every day that has us bonding with your children. Spending more time with your children than sometimes we do our own. We often stand in war together against a society of politicians who want to accuse us of not doing enough or not doing it right. We collaborate about ways to help your children learn or be the best student they can be often in a climate that tells us that is just not enough. We have the funniest stories of little Johnies or “Oops I said this.” The feeling I get when your child gets it is not all that different than my own children get it.
Every occupation is rough. Every occupation has it challenges. But what is wrong in a world where a teacher is gunned down in her classroom. A principal and a leader in the school gun down for no reason. Or in a world where teachers are so fearful for their lives and livelihood?
And we have to question why? I never question what I would do. In fact, this tragedy made me think even harder about how to do what I would do better. I would stand in front of your child and plead for their life. I would comfort your child and try and convince them they would be okay. I kind of do that already every day. But I do ask why?
Is it all for naught? Can I provide more to my field as a researcher, a voice or activist than I can as a teacher? It takes a crazy man shooting up a school for us to realize a teachers value? And even then we question, “Did they let him in?” And what does a glass window and a penetrable door do to stop someone with clear cut intentions to kill? Regardless of who is on the other side of that door? It does absolutely nothing.
I love teaching. I love the rewards of teaching. I don’t love the vulnerability I feel. The ability of knowing how easily it can happen or how easily I am at the mercy of others who it often seems like words count more than my own even though I am the one doing it. Living it. Seeing it. When I say I struggle being vulnerable I mean more than at risk of a masked gunman. I mean what I do is very public and very in the moment. I make 1000 decisions a day I question and reflect on better ways I could have done it.
There are no magical answers here folk. The answer is that we take responsibility for our actions. We teach our kids to take responsibility for theirs. Stand up and realize that education is across the board done by all of us. Not just teachers. We can’t stop what happened yesterday. But we can prevent what will happen tomorrow through education.
“Heroes didn’t leap tall buildings or stop bullets with an outstretched hand; they didn’t wear boots and capes. They bled, and they bruised, and their superpowers were as simple as listening, or loving. Heroes were ordinary people who knew that even if their own lives were impossibly knotted, they could untangle someone else’s. And maybe that one act could lead someone to rescue you right back.”
― Jodi Picoult, Second Glance