As we hear the stories coming out of Newtown, Connecticut, one of the stories we're hearing is about the heroism of teachers. The stories are being shared of the teachers who died and how their last actions were to try to save their children, and the teachers who survived and how they ushered their children to safety, keeping them quiet, secure, calm, and safe in closets and bathrooms.
I have a school-aged daughter. My husband and I made the decision to talk to her about the tragedy in Newtown, because she's old enough that she'll look over and read the headlines or hear someone talking. We keep news sources around us--a daily newspaper, a weekly news magazine, a news radio station--and she was bound to hear about it somewhere. Other parents, with different habits or younger children, might effectively shield their children from the news, but we knew we couldn't. So she knew a little bit about it when we sent her off to school again this morning. And it was a normal school day for her, although nothing feels normal anymore to me about sending my child off to school. I imagine that's a feeling that will last for a while.
Much of the day, I was thinking about my child's teacher, and how much I appreciate her and every other teacher my child has had. I know that they're dedicated and caring people. I know they love our children. I know they would shield my child with their life. Teachers don't get enough thanks in this day. This has been a tough week for teachers in Michigan -- a week that began with the passage of right-to-work laws and ended with Newtown. We ask these people to love our children, take care of our children, protect our children, and educate our children, and we can't give them enough thanks. They deserve more pay and more respect for the work that they do.
And my child knows how much the teachers care, too. Today, she told me, they made an announcement at her school, and the principal told the student body how saddened they were by what had happened in Connecticut, but that at her school the teachers and staff would do everything they could to keep their students safe. My daughter said that some of the kids in her class didn't know what happened, so her teacher explained it to them. "She didn't give details," my daughter said, "just a summary." Apparently she's been learning about summaries lately, so she was very clear on this. Some of the children gasped at the news, she said, when they heard that children had been killed. But they weren't scared, thanks to the reassuring tone of their teacher.
Of course I hate that my daughter has to know about this. I hate that schools have to think about policies about how people come in the building. I hate that children have to learn lock-down procedures. And most of all, of course, I hate that violence was committed against children.
But I'll continue to send my child off to school, scary as it is--mostly scary for me, not her. She can't live in fear of the world, in fear of living her life. And because I will continue to send her off to school, I'm thankful for the love and dedication of teachers. One teacher from Newtown said that as she huddled with her children waiting for the police to arrive, she told them she loved them. She didn't know if that would be okay with parents, but she wanted if these children were going to die, for them to hear at this time that someone loved them. I know my child's teacher would do the same thing if she were there.
So I'm writing this today for all the teachers in my life--my daughter's teacher, my sister who is a teacher in Detroit Public Schools, my congregation members who are teachers. Thank you for the work that you do. Thank you for loving our children. Thank you for being there with them in the joyous times of holiday parties, and the dark and scary times huddled in a closet. Thank you. We love you for loving our children.