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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.

sandy-hook-teachers-killed
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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Discussion


  1. Thank you very much for that, it’s so touching and emotional.
    May God remember the families of the slain.
    And bless all the teachers across the world.

  2. Angela, I like how you distinctively said in one of your responses towards Tom, “a CRAZY man and his assault rifle”. I am a Deputy Sheriff in Kentucky and have spent time as a School Resource Officer. I am fully aware of what schools do to prepare for a possible gunman lurking down the street or in the parking lot. I AM prepared to give my life to save another. Especially an innocent child. It is very unfortunate and sickening what happened at Sandy Hook. But, your response, to me, seemed like you are stating the “crazy man” was to blame and not his rifle. That is exactly the way I believe. I’m in fear with this tragedy, our government will try to imply stricter gun laws. This is not what needs to happen. It will only create a problem the will be a force to be reconned with. Instead, if they really want to help, HomelandSecurity could supply a grant to place armed SRO’s in EVERY school in counties and towns. This would be far more productive and protective. Just my thought. Thank god we have teachers willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice to protect a child. Thank you teachers from all over this nation for what you do. You guy like us officers, never hear that enough.

  3. I completely agree with Angela Watson. It is an even GREATER TRAGEDY that some schools are instructing teachers NOT to talk about Sandy Hook Elementary!

    Problems do not go away by pretending they do not exist. It is important for kids to have some age appropriate balance between the hardships of reality, and the magic of possibilities that offer children the power to influence change upon the world. It can be much more confusing & emotional for a child to learn about/be misinformed by strangers or other children. Keep the conversation simple, and allow them to ask questions. Focus more on solutions (discuss possibilities of how to keep safe in a crisis; both natural disaster or human), and show your children how to regain their power of dignity in the aftermath of a tragedy. Perhaps turn it into a project of LOVE. Help your children create cards/drawings/letters for those who have been most severely impacted by this horrible incident:

    http://lite987.com/send-a-card-or-letter-to-sandy-hook-elementary-in-newtown/

    Sandy Hook Elementary School
    12 Dickenson Drive
    Sandy Hook, CT, 06482

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