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Today, Pass The Chalk is running a series of reflections on the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.
As a Connecticut mother of two children and an educator I have been struggling, like many across the world, to absorb the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
I was in a professional development session all day Friday. Even though I was aware that there had been a shooting in a school in Newtown, it wasn’t until the drive to pick up my children from school that I began to process the magnitude of the event and the lives lost.
All day I had been secure in the knowledge that no matter what was happening in other corners of Connecticut, my children were safe in their school in New Haven. I knew that the school would notify parents if anything was amiss and I understood that the best thing I could do for my two was to finish out my day and let them finish theirs.
When I walked into the school that evening, my heart and throat tightened when I saw that the security guard whose presence I usually take for granted as I walk past his corner desk had planted himself on a chair in the middle of the entryway. The chair told me he’d been sitting there all day and the fierce look on his face said “no one is getting past me.”
I wanted to hug him and thank him for keeping my children safe; instead we just exchanged knowing nods.
The usually mundane task of picking up my kids after school took on an edge that afternoon with staff members subtly making sure that they made eye contact with every parent and physically handing each child off. It was as if with this act we were somehow keeping them safe: “Here, he’s yours now. Thank you, I have her now.” I took my babies home and loved on them as much as I could.
My heart has been heavy all weekend. Heavy for the loss of life but heavy also with gratitude. Gratitude that my children are safe, gratitude for the many children in that school who survived the attack and most of all, gratitude for the educators who every single day put mine and countless other children first.
That’s not an easy task. I know many educators are asking themselves what they would have done in this moment of unimaginable horror. Would they have been as heroic as the teachers of Sandy Hook? But that is not a question we can possibly answer. Nor do we need to. That’s because every day that you greet my child with open arms, gently soothe his worries, deliberately teach her the skills she needs to learn, cheer him on as he learns a new reading strategy, and nurture her self-esteem you are already a hero.
Monica Filpuu taught in the 1995 D.C. corps. She is the Managing Director of District Strategy for Teach For America—Connecticut.