A Teacher's Reflection on the Movie Massacre

I had another post in mind-one that was lighthearted and would hopefully make you smile.

But then James Holmes committed the unspeakable act of ambushing a theatre and these are the words my heart needs to express...

As I learn more and more about the Colorado shootings, one life keeps tugging on my heart.

It's that of the sweet six year old girl who was murdered in the midst of what was supposed to be entertainment.  This fall, a first grade classroom will have an empty seat due to those actions.  Maybe in eleven years her classmates will remember her at the graduation ceremony and leave a chair vacant in memory of her.

Veronica Sullivan's life ended in the early black hours Friday.  I'm assuming she'd completed kindergarten a month or two earlier.  And as a teacher, I can't help but wonder what her teacher must be thinking right now.  Amidst the depravity of the act and how grossly unfair it was, I'm sure she's questioning: Did I make the year count?

I know we always say, "We only get one year with them" but as this innocent girl's death provides truth to that sentence, it makes me reflect on my own classroom.  And the following questions come to mind:

  • Did I praise them enough?  When kids walk into my room, will they know this bit of bricks where we learn is a place where they will hear words of encouragement?  Do they know that even if it's a rough day, correction will be gentle?  Do they want to come in my room? 
  • When kids walk in my room will they know they are valued?  Will they understand their thoughts and feelings are essential to making our classroom?  Did I tell their parents that their child is a treasure? 
  • Did I help them understand there are people to whom you can turn if you find yourself in trouble?  Do they know that in 20 years, if they need guidance they can still seek out me?  Do they understand there are better ways to express yourself-killing innocent people and stock loading guns are not effective and that there are people who will walk through the valley with you?
  • Did I make every day count?  Not only will there be an empty desk in two months, but an empty chair at supper.  Forever.  Did I make each day worthwhile?  So the families won't think I'm wasting precious time with their children-they will be grateful for the bond their children have with their classmates and every adult at the school-parents, custodians, lunch ladies.  I want families to say, "My child loves school."

I know these are lofty reflections-written in the "lazy" days of summer, not in the middle of the year.  I know some days will wear flat wear you out.  I know some years a class may be more challenging than others.  I know what it's like to be swamped with paperwork, conferences, mandates and testing while having a sinus infection, bronchitis and an ear infection-all at the same time.. 

But when you get right to the heart of it, all of those things are secondary.

If I can help each child feel loved, appreciated and valued-those are the most important "core" lessons they will learn. 

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