How do you follow up a blog post that writes about how you don’t want to be a hero?
How do we adequately describe what it means to pick up the pieces and keep on teaching, even though it seems America has gone mad? Even though some people, including our president, are saying that we should be armed in order to protect the children we teach?
How do I write about all of the seemingly trivial components of what it means to be a teacher, what it means to teach, when once again we have been reminded we may be the single difference between a child feeling loved and a child feeling the need to kill.
Where I live we have had a threat in a school in our county every day in the past week. It doesn’t even feel surprising anymore.
And yet, as we walk through our doors our days continue to unfold. We slide back into the same old routines, but with a heightened sense of awareness. We truly look at our students, look them in the eyes, and we say thank you when they leave us for the hour, for the day.
We say good morning and mean it.
Ask them about their day.
Sit next to them as we re-teach, explain, and help where we can.
We look for warning signs but we also look for the good. We notice the good. We point out the good.
On my computer hangs a post-it note that says, “Which child are you giving up on?” Inspired by a conversation Lisa Meade shared, this simple note is my constant reminder that in our school we don’t give up on anyone. That in our school, we seek out all of the kids. That in our school we don’t want invisible children. That when we think we have done enough, there is always more to do.
That in our room, their presence matters. That they came, despite the obstacles that may have been in their way. That in this room, their presence makes my day better even if they are not sure others care.
So when we pick up the pieces after yet another mass shooting, we do so with care. We renew our vow to continue to be focused on kids first, teaching second. To take the time to truly get to know the kids we teach, not because someone told us we had to, but because we cannot imagine not knowing them. And we use the fear that may be following us into our rooms as a way to drive us all toward goodness.
We remember that because we teach we get to be a part of the conversation of what happens next.
That because we teach we get a choice to either focus on kindness, empathy, understanding and acceptance, rather than hate and mistrust.
That because we teach we get to have a say in how students view the world.
That because we teach we get to tell a child every single day that they matter.
That we are glad they are with us.
That we are proud of them and that they should be proud of themselves.
We remember that because we teach we have the power to change the future.
And that is how we pick up the fragile pieces once more and carry on toward a future that involves the very heart of this country.
A future that we have the power to make better.