I was working upstairs in my studio last night watching the interfaith service for the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy when I heard my son and his girlfriend come home. They were returning from a work holiday party and were joyful and boisterous. My son hollered greetings up the stairway and I knew if I hollered back it would turn into one of those shouted conversations between two floors. I called down, “Come up, I’m just painting pottery”. Stomp, stomp, stomp up the stairs and they were both standing there, suddenly quiet as they took in the sight of President Obama speaking to the families and first responders on the TV. They watched for a while, as did I with one eye on the TV and the other on the paintbrush. My mind, however, was fully on the President’s words. When it was over my son said, “I figured you’d be up here doing something like this.” To which I might have answered, “And I am not surprised you are not.”
My son finds solace in the company of others. Perhaps it has something to do with his being an only child, he thrives in collaborative work and truly enjoys being part of a group. I, on the other hand, have always retreated to the studio to my art or crafts to find solace. Even as a child in a family of 8 children, I would sit at the dining room table in the midst of the noise and activity and create art, completely oblivious to all that was happening around me.
Last Friday’s tragedy hit me hard because it came from so many angles. I felt it as a parent, grandparent, and aunt. I felt it as a teacher and could not help thinking about my own students all weekend. I felt it as a colleague, hearing stories of the sacrifices by the teachers at Sandy Hook who did exactly what my colleagues and I have been trained to do as teachers and would do without question as human beings.
Throughout the weekend, everyone I encountered was at least a little bit off. I went about the busy activities of the season – working at a holiday gift program all day Saturday, making sure to get to church on the way home. Sunday was busy, too, with shopping and cleaning and cooking for the holidays. Yet, all day I felt uneasy about returning to school today.
We had a faculty meeting first thing this morning with our principal and superintendent. This is spirit week and today we were all attired in our school colors. It felt good to be with this staff, these colleagues and administrators. As I listened at the meeting to how we can best help our kids by being available to them, making them feel safe, secure, and cared for, I couldn’t help looking around at this group of professionals who are my fellow teachers and thinking, “We’ve got this. This is what we do. It is always here, under the lessons, assignments and instruction. Under the curriculum and assessments, it is here. Today it has come to the surface, but it is always here.” And suddenly, my uneasiness was gone.
We had a very good day today. Our principal initiated a moment of silence during the morning announcements, which seemed to break the ice. Our kids were dressed in their school spirit wear and it was business as usual, with some extra tenderness and care. Spirit week continues tomorrow, and I can’t wait to go to school….in pajamas!