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40 Hour Workweek

Uncategorized   |   Dec 16, 2012

What do you say at a time like this?

By Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

What do you say at a time like this?

By Angela Watson

I’ve been debating on that very question all weekend. I haven’t touched the blog or any social media since the massacre at Sandy Hook. It feels disrespectful, somehow, to be writing about regular school-related stuff or sharing funny images on Facebook without having first having done something to acknowledge such a tragedy. I wish I could write something profound and inspiring about what happened, but everything I’ve thought to say sounds trite. My thoughts and prayers are with them. I join the families in mourning their loss. All true and heartfelt statements, but none of them really convey the depths of what I’m feeling.

As I read article after article about the events that unfolded on Friday, I’m most touched by the stories of the teachers and staff who protected their students at their own peril. I’m proud of how well they executed the lockdown procedures we have all practiced so many times, and the methods they used to calm and reassure their students. They did exactly what I think each of us hopes we would have had the presence of mind to do in that horrifying situation. Their professionalism, good judgment, and love for their students is profound.

Three of the Sandy Hook Elementary staff members who lost their lives protecting their students, from left to right: Victoria Soto (1st grade teacher), Dawn Hochsprung (principal), and Mary Sherlach (psychologist).

I wonder if the general public is surprised by the response of those educators. Their heroic actions fly in the face of all the negative stereotypes that have been floating around about teachers–that we’re greedy, that we only teach for the short hours and summers off, that we’re lazy, that we don’t care about the kids we teach. I hope that the people who believed those messages will hear about Sandy Hook and realize that each of us walk into our classrooms in the morning determined to protect our students as if they were our own, from whatever dangers that come.

The teachers who gave their lives for their students on Friday leave a strong and proud legacy for us to uphold. They have made the ultimate sacrifice for their little ones, and they made me feel proud to be an educator. I hope this doesn’t sound insensitive to the children who died. I am grieving for the loss of those precious lives, as well. But it’s comforting to know that the adults in charge of them acted with such loving and wise responses. It’s the one bright spot in so much darkness.

I had planned to stay silent all weekend out of respect for the tragedy, but at the last minute, I decided I didn’t want to wait until Monday to post these words. Because tomorrow, we all have to return to our schools and reassure kids that life will go on for them. Tomorrow we have to focus on helping our students learn. Tomorrow we have to put on a cheerful face and resume the holiday preparations and school celebrations.

So I want to use today to encourage you as you prepare to face the coming week. As my friend Angela Maiers has said in her beautiful post, there is no lesson plan for tragedy–teachers, you KNOW what to do. When your students enter the classroom tomorrow, your instincts will kick in, you’ll read your students’ cues, and you will be there for your students in just the way they need you to be, just as you’ve always done. You’ll know what to say to the whole class (if anything), and how to comfort and reassure individual children who need to know they are still safe in your care.

I hope you will feel a little more pride tomorrow morning as you enter your school, knowing with more certainty the importance of your job beyond the data and assessment we get bogged down with on a daily basis.

I hope you will love on your students a little more, and experience an even deeper appreciation of how precious they are as individuals.

I hope that you will connect with and reassure your students’ parents, and they will look at you in a new light, realizing (maybe for the first time) the lengths that you would go to in order to protect each and every one of their kids.

I hope you will know that you, too, are a hero for your students, and that knowledge will give you the strength to continue giving your all, day after day after day.

Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Angela created the first version of this site in 2003, when she was a classroom teacher herself. With 11 years of teaching experience and more than a decade of experience as an instructional coach, Angela oversees and contributes regularly to...
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  1. This is exactly what I needed to read before tomorrow. You gave me the answers I was looking for, but couldn’t quite wrap my brain around. THANK You!

  2. Lots of people face risks with their jobs. Dont make yourself out to be a hero just because of your profession being tied to others who just faced a horrible event

    1. Tom,
      You have obviously never walked a day in a teacher’s shoes. Please take your negativity and get off this page. Yes, lots of people face horrible risks everyday. Actually, I would say everybody does. You never know when something bad is going to happen, this could happen at McDonald’s, the bank, even walking down the street. Teachers love their children as their own. When asked how many kids I have, I usually reply “21”- two of my own and 19 at school. You do what you have to do in order to keep ALL kids safe. These teachers and staff members did that. They will forever be heroes because of it. Teachers were heroes before this happened and they will be heroes everyday after. We not only teach; we love, we nurture, we nurse, we listen, we play, we kid around, we praise, we hug and much, much more.

      Thank you so much for your encouraging words. I really appreciate it.

    2. Tom, you seriously don’t get it.

      The point was not that our job has the potential to be dangerous. Most jobs have that potential, especially if we’re talking about something like a mass shooting. That can pretty much happen anywhere.

      Many people are praising these women for responding the way that they did during Friday’s tragedy. They deserve to be called heros, however, what the general public doesn’t understand is that any elementary school teacher I know would have done the same. When I walk through the door of my school building, my own problems/issues/hardships are immediately checked out the door. My priority throughout my work day is always my students.

      Most of us take our job as teachers quite seriously, we realize that our actions, words, and examples have the potential to greatly influence a child. During the week, I spend more waking hours with the children than many of their parents do. As a result, we care about them a great deal, and feel a responsibility to take care of them and keep them safe.

      The general public seems to be amazed that a teacher was willing to save her children’s lives over her own. The general public applauds the teacher who took her students into the bathroom and tried to comfort and distract them. What the general public fails to realize, however, is that these women acted out of instinct. While people watched and read the news amazed, us teachers were nodding our head in agreement, feeling an instant bond because we could put ourselves in their shoes and we understood why they did what they did. It was never a question for them.

      It’s a mama bear type instinct. We are not priding ourselves on this, we just understand it.

    3. Tom, there are words for people like you that I will not express on this page. For you to get on here and try to make these educators second guess themselves is cowardly. Are you upset that one like them paddled you for being a little turd in school? Is it because you have nothing better to do but set behind a computer and attempt to create doubt. Never mind the fact that people just like these folks are the very ones who taught you to wright and read so that your fortunate enough to get on here and say the things you have said. If you really feel that way, post it somewhere else. Its your right to feel how you want just like the protesters at a soldiers funeral. Although Its my right to think people like you and people like those protesters are morons.

    4. To be frank, Tom – nobody here is making themselves out to be a hero (where do you even get this from?)

      This being said and entirely separate from the shooting last week, I know many school teachers who are everyday heros in my eyes – you wouldn’t believe the things some do for their students on a daily basis, not just in times of crisis…it is above and beyond what most people do in their jobs to say the least, and this is coming from a former corporate perspective. What most here are saying is that they feel proud to be part of a profession full of the kind of people who would do the same out of love for their students. Sadly something tells me you don’t fall into this category as you really just seem unable to grasp this notion. Most are simply saying thank you to the author for giving us the words we needed to hear to do a difficult job today; or thank you to the educators who died for their students as it reflects how we all feel as elementary school teachers. Maybe it is just not something you can understand until you have been in the position, but that doesn’t mean you need to be rude about how people feel just because you don’t understand.

      Thank you again to Angela, you made the dreadful talk with my students today a lot easier than it it would have been otherwise. Don’t let the haters get you down and please keep writing for us!

  3. Thank you so much for writing this and sharing it with all of us. I have wanted to write something as well, but just have not been able to find the words. I couldn’t be more proud to be an educator and although I know tomorrow won’t be easy, I can’t wait to see my students and remind them again how much I love and care for them.

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