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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. Thank you so much for saying how I feel today. I appreciate your writing and efforts on our behalf. God bless you,
    Sue Watson

  2. Making the blanket statement all teachers are heroes and would take a bullet,and other profesionals wouldnt is wrong. You are selfishly inserting yourself into this story. You are not a hero. But maybe one day you will be.just like countless other people in a variety of positions are

  3. This article makes me sad because it is taking the heroism of these individuals and politicizing it. This has nothing to do with some districts striking and people being upset at the timing of it. It has nothing to do with the fact that in my county teachers on average make 20% more than anyone else in the county but are still demanding more even though we are broke. This has nothing to do with the fact that some people see bad teachers in their schools and they are frustrated that unions are backing them and helping them keep their jobs.
    The heroism displayed has nothing to do with being a teacher, it has to do with being human. Heroes step forward during a tragedy and they would have been no less a hero if they were a librarian, a custodian, or a UPS devlivery man that happened to be onsite. What about the Dad that went and rushed kids out of the building, is he less of a hero because he doesn’t take that risk for children every day?

    This is an attempt to politicize what happened and to pat your back when this tragedy had nothing to do with you. I am glad that you put your students first and I hope you are willing to step forward and help any of them but make sure you are doing this on a daily basis. Being a hero doesn’t just involve stepping in the way of a gunman. Protect kids from bullying, protect children from unfit parents, and educate your students so that can make something of their lives. A love of learning starts early, so get up every day and do a great job. At the age of 35, I can look back and my teachers and I can count less than 10 teachers that I could see truly cared about us as students. The majority of my family are teachers and I spend a lot of time in high schools and jr high schools and I see a lot of teachers that are greedy and lazy. Showing us examples of good teachers does not excuse the bad.

    1. Hi, John. You are so right in saying that we as teachers have to be willing to step forward and help our students on a daily basis, not just in times of emergency. The purpose of this article was to encourage teachers and give them the strength to be there for their students today. It was to inspire teachers and let them know how important their work is so that they can do all of the things you mention–protecting kids from bullies, from unfit parents, and educating them. Constantly hearing about how lazy teachers are and how many bad teachers are out there is discouraging to the vast majority of teachers who truly care, and it doesn’t accomplish anything productive to bring that up when teachers are here reading this article BECAUSE they care about their students and want to handle this tragedy in a kind and caring way. In order for teachers to “get up every day and do a great job”, they need to feel supported and empowered. That was the reason why I wrote this article, and I stand by it.

  4. Beautiful- thank you…. I will be sharing your message and thank you for crafting it so well.
    Yours In Peace
    ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡
    ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡ ♡
    ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

  5. I’m sure many schools will be practicing lock-down procedures in response to this tragedy. As part of this practice, a code given quickly over the intercom gives the teachers and entire school, precious time to protect and secure the children in a “turtle tuck” position, and away from harm. The teachers at Sandy Hook did this instictively.

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