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I wrote this the day after the shooting at Sandy Hook
Elementary School. I couldn’t finish it until today…
I first reacted to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting
as a mom of a 15 month old little girl. Though she is not old enough to go to
school yet, I still pictured her, 6 years old, with pigtails, wearing a pink dress
and tights, excitedly carrying a backpack with a gorilla on it–her favorite
animal.  I transposed myself as one of
those parents, frantically looking for my daughter after hearing the news. I
imagined the horror of waiting and waiting, only to find out my baby was
murdered. I’ve been trying to stop my mind from going to that dark and
unfathomable place, but I can’t. And I just hug my baby girl so tightly. She
looks up at me with such innocence, happily doing the sign language sign for
“gorilla!” in an effort to get me to read her favorite book, and I am saddened
again at how this community’s children have lost their innocence forever. And
every kid who hears about this has lost a part of his or her innocence as well.
I want to snap freeze my daughter at this age and never expose her to cruel realities
in the world. I want her biggest concern to be whether or not I remembered to give her her gorilla at nap time. I know I can’t shelter her forever. I just want to.
 
I then reacted as a school psychologist. What would I have
done if I were at that school that day? Would I have thrown myself in front of
the shooter, as the brave school psychologist and principal did? I replay the
scene in my head, happening in my school, and processing how to make it not
happen. I replay it at my other school, with a different cast of characters,
planning out how to prevent it. I then play it in my head from the little
information I know about the campus at Sandy Hook. Each time, I think of how I
could protect the children. I am sure the school psychologist acted on her
instinct to protect. It’s what we do. I can only imagine if I would have done
the same. No one knows such things for sure. 
My job as a school psychologist has exposed me to the dark
underbelly of under-resourced schools and an overly-armed community. I have
worked with kids who have murdered. I have worked with kids who I fear will
murder someone without proper mental health services. I have called the police
when there are kids with guns outside my school, only to have them say they’re
too busy to come unless shots have been fired. I have found guns in backpacks of
11 year olds, because kids are afraid of walking to school. I have seen
chronically traumatized kids come to school, numb to the near daily gunfire in
their neighborhoods. I have seen mental health cut from our schools. I have
been in districts where school psychologists, social workers, and counselors
have impossibly high caseloads. I have lived through lockdowns at our schools,
where gun violence on the streets threatens our safety in school. I have seen gun violence strike in all communities, including in my home state of Colorado.  And this week, I have seen the footage of
parents in Connecticut burying their children and my heart breaks.
I also reacted as a sister and friend. My sister is a
principal, and I have so many wonderful teacher friends. I know every one of
them is a hero, and not just in times of extreme crises. The teachers at Sandy
Hook showed us all what true heros teachers really are. It is humbling to know
that in our society, our teachers literally would take a bullet for our kids. So
can we stop bashing on them and blaming them for societal ills please? Can we
take pause and reflect on how amazing these people are? Can we treat them with
the respect they deserve, instead of demanding more and more from them and
not giving them any resources with which to do more?
Finally, I am now reacting as a citizen. I feel pressed to
do more. Do something. Anything. I know that “More mental health and less guns
please” is a battle cry I’ve had in my heart for a long time. It’s simple, and
I know it lacks the nuance and complexity of the issues, but it is from that basic
premise I think we can make reasonable changes in our society.
I can only hope that the public rises up and asks our
government to do more to protect our kids. Like President Obama said, “ Our
first task is caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that
right, we don’t get anything right.”

3 thoughts on “I Can’t Stop Thinking About It.

  1. Thank you for what you've written, for your support and your compassion for teachers, for your work with children, and for understanding that those heroic acts last Friday were the instincts fed from a place of pure love. You said you couldn't finish writing until today, but we know you cannot ever be finished, for there is still so much more to say, so much more to do.
    We have the awesome gift and responsibility of helping to raise and teach the children who are in our care. We are their village. They need us. We can't let them down.

  2. I love all of what you said, and agree with it wholeheartedly, but I especially love what you said about recognizing how awesome teachers are. I have heard several mentions of how first grade teacher Victoria Soto referred to her students as "my kids", as further evidence of how much she valued her students. And what I wish people knew is, a LOT of us educators do that. I'm not pointing this out to downplay Ms. Soto's commitment to her students, because there is absolutely no doubt of that. I just wish people knew that so many of the people we're complaining about because they aren't "fixing" kids in a 7 hour school day, also think of their students as their kids. Though we try to stay mindful of healthy boundaries, often our job does become personal.

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