I know. It’s been a really long time. I guess I didn’t realize how little time I would have to myself after teaching all day. I should have known, but I didn’t.
The past couple of weeks has been particularly rough. I was not prepared for the impact of the Sandy Hook tragedy. Veteran teachers were prepared (although you can never really be prepared for tragedy) emotionally. Some of them had been through tragedies before and were, at least, aware of the emotional impact.
I was totally blindsided. I couldn’t listen to the news or read about it. I was (and still am at times) sick to my stomach. This tragedy didn’t only hit me as a mother, but as a teacher. What would I have done if it were my school?
Granted, I teach high school and I know that these things can happen. But, I guess I was lulled into a belief that it couldn’t happen here. That belief, which unrealistic as it may have been (Columbine is 25 miles from here), was blown apart. If an elementary school was the scene of such a tragedy, my high school is definitely at risk.
My classroom is the 4th door down the main hallway (office, counseling, one classroom and then my room). There probably wouldn’t be time to even lock my door, let alone, hide students.
The scenarios continue to play in my mind…what if?
And then, the most horrifying one. The one that makes me want to curl up in bed and never get out. What if I were put in the situation and killed? How would my own children manage with me gone and their dad fighting lung cancer? And then, I can’t breathe. My eyes fill with tears at the realization that my choices could leave my own children without. But how could I live with myself if my actions left another parent without their child? Impossible choices.
I am certain that I am not the only teacher or parent going through this. It cannot be escaped, as the discussions continue on gun control and mental illness. There are no easy answers and no guarantees.
But we are a resilient breed – teachers – tough on the outside and caring on the inside. We got up Monday morning, following the tragedy, and headed to our classrooms. We pretended that it was just another day and we spoke to our students with compassion, if they wanted to talk about the tragedy. We pushed our feelings of horror down deep to deal with the students that we were entrusted with by the community. We were professionals. We were teachers, no different on the outside than we were the week before.
But, Monday, after school, I sat in my car and cried. And since then, I have shed many tears over the loss of lives and innocence.
In January, I will return to school. I will re-hang the curtains that belong by my classroom door after “fixing” them so that they hang better and won’t allow anyone to see in my room. I will wonder aloud (to my colleagues and administrators) about what can be changed to allow the classroom doors to lock from both the inside and the outside.
But most of all, I will continue: continue teaching, continue caring about my students, continue on and hanging tough.