Monday, December 17, 2012

Humble thanks, as both a parent and a teacher

On Friday night, like so many millions of other parents across America, I sat on the couch in front of the Christmas tree with my husband and sobbed, my heart broken for the children who died in Connecticut, violated in one of the places where they should have been safe. I felt this tragedy in my gut on so many levels - I am an elementary school teacher. I am a parent of a Kindergartener and a first grader. I work every day with students classified as "Emotionally Disturbed." I couldn't even figure out where to begin my grief, or what to pray for. What could I do? "I guess," I told my husband, still sobbing, "I just start by walking back into the classroom on Monday."

We start by continuing to trust each other, to believe that there is good in the world, and to be a force for that good. We start by being brave, for refusing to live in fear, for promising to look for and assist those who aren't getting the help they need. And we start by going back to school.

As a teacher, I want to thank the parents of my students. Thank you for sending them back to me tomorrow. Thank you for entrusting them to me. Not just tomorrow, but every day, both past and future. Not just their physical safety, but their emotional and mental well-being and growth. I am humbled by that responsibility, humbled by your trust that I will keep them safe, that I will teach them what they need to know, that I will protect their emotions and their innocence and help them to grow into happy, smart, and well-adjusted adults. I feel a new responsibility to the career I have chosen, a new calling to honor it. Thank you for trusting me.

As a parent, I want to thank the teachers of my children. Thank you for walking back into the classroom tomorrow. Because I know that each of you, like I did, stopped to think if we would do what those teachers did if it came to that. And by walking back into the classroom on Monday, I know that is your promise to me that you continue to value and treasure the solemn responsibility of being a teacher.

It's going to be hard to let my little ones walk into their classrooms tomorrow. I've spent the weekend holding them, breathing in the smell of their hair and their skin, pulling them into my lap for extra snuggles. I don't want to let them go into the world, where they're not with me, and I can't control what they see or hear. But I will. I'll squeeze them extra tight, pray for them, and walk back into my classroom on Monday.

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