Friday, December 13, 2013

It's Personal

While I'm just drafting this blog post now, I've written it about one hundred and fifty times in my head over the course of the last year, and more specifically, week.  Maybe it's because Newtown is
right next door, or maybe it's because my sister is a teacher at Sandy Hook that I feel so connected to what happened on December 14th last year.  I get chills when I think about the moments leading up to the phone call that changed our lives forever.   Over the past year, I've run the gammet of emotions:  sadness, more sadness, and grief; powerlessness; anger, lots of that; fear; frustration; and of course... in my case, relief, which has, at times, also led to guilt.

I've never really wanted this blog to be personal, because that's not its purpose.  I created this blog a little over a year ago in order to continue my own learning, share new learning, and stay connected to the wonderful educational blogging and Twitter community that I so admire.  For example, one of my favorite blog posts is by Kate Roberts (TCRWP staff developer extraordinaire, co-author of the fabulous blog Indent,  and most recently, co author of the amazing book:  Fall in Love with Close Reading) and it is about how we can (and should) "close read" our lives around us.  I think of her words often as I pay close attention to the happenings of my day and how they impact my feelings or perspective.  This morning was no exception, and while I finally pen this post that I've been writing in my head over and over this past week, I realize more than ever that I have to make this blog post personal, because teaching is personal.  I can't separate the two.  

I pulled into Dunkin Donuts this morning, my usual stop on my way to school.  There were nine cars in the parking lot and eight of them had a green ribbon sticker, or perhaps magnet, on the back of their cars.  Eight.  It made me pause to realize how many people, particularly in this area I think, but all over the world, too, publicly support the teachers, staff, and families of Sandy Hook.  Two cars had stick figure families on the back of their windows too, but the rest of them were empty;  just the green ribbon decorated the back of the cars.  Sporting my green nail polish and wearing my green shirt,  I hustled inside with the cold December air nipping my nose.  The same crew was working behind the counter, and the same retired guys were sitting at the tables sipping their (probably cold by now) drinks.  To them, this was probably just another day.  The back of their car showed a symbol of support, but their days would probably go on just like they would any other Friday.   They might talk about Sandy Hook today and tomorrow as it is splashed all across the television and radio stations again, or maybe they'll reflect silently about the sadness that they feel or the friend that they knew who knew a family member.  And then they'll go on with their day.  I found myself feeling jealous of their carefree morning. 

Ironically, I don't have a sticker on the back of my car.  My sister gave me one that I displayed proudly, but when I traded my old car in and drove my new car away, I left the magnet behind.  At the time, I called her desperately looking for a new one, but it hasn't made it onto the back of my new car.  This morning, as I stepped back into my car, I closed the door and without warning, tears started streaming down my cheeks.  Maybe it's because I wished for a sticker on the back of my car so that the next car would drive in and see ten cars in the parking lot and nine (not eight) of them showing support to Sandy Hook today.  Or maybe it's because I want to be able to go on with my day today like those retired men in Dunkin Donuts will, just thinking of this day as another day where something bad happened to someone else.  It was probably because each sticker that I see, each green ribbon that I notice reminds me of the twenty six innocent people who went to school one day and never came home.  And then I go there... I go to the place where I think of the parents, and the families, and the friends, and the little, little, little kids.  And I think of the survivors. I always, always think of them, too.  The little kids who saw and heard too much that day.  The teachers who tried to protect them with every ounce of their being by standing or sitting in front of them, reading to them, talking with them, and herding them to safety.  This morning,  I don't know exactly why I cried; I just did. 

And then I pulled it together.  I walked into school, smiled at students, and prepared for the day.  Because while teaching is personal, it also requires us, as teachers and adults, to stay strong.

I want to write a thank you to the Sandy Hook teacher.  I'm a teacher, and if you're reading this, you're probably a teacher, too.  Since we're all teachers, or parents, or friends, or just human beings, we think of December 14th with a lens that is forever changed. We think of our jobs differently; we think of our kids differently.  I'm more fearful than I was a year ago today.  I'm more grateful, too.  I'm less cynical and try to listen more. I'm thankful to the Sandy Hook teacher for staying strong through the hardest year of their lives to show us, the world, how very special and important teaching really is.  They remind us that teaching is about kids.  Teaching is about growing minds, growing stories, and growing up.  Sandy Hook teachers are walking the halls of their school today, yesterday, and tomorrow doing what you and I know must feel completely impossible:  making it through the day, and, not just today, but every day... for the kids.   That's strength.  And it's personal.  When they smile at a student like I nonchalantly did this morning, they are hiding the pain that they feel for the students and staff who can't smile back.  They go into their classrooms and continue to grow minds every day despite how hard it feels. 

And while I'm closely reading things around me, it doesn't fall on blind eyes to me that a snow storm is expected December 14th into December 15th.  It's as the universe is saying, "You've been strong through the storm of your life.  Stay home for this one and take care of yourself." And I hope that's what every Sandy Hook teacher and Newtown family does.  I hope they cuddle up with those that they love and love them and feel... whatever they want to feel.  And if they want to cry, I hope they do that too. A lot of it.   

Teaching is personal.  Reading is personal.  Writing is personal.  And so, today, this blog is personal.  David Coleman, a self-proclaimed architect of the CCSS, may think that no one gives a sh*t about what I have to say or think, but I don't agree. Some of my closest friends have left teaching because they feel we've lost the "personal".  I sure hope not, because schools need personal.  Life is personal.  Sure, we have to consider other perspectives and our audience when we read and write so that our message is clear and insightful for the given purpose, but it is personal.  What those teachers did on that day... every single one of them, not just the ones receiving the 'glamorous' awards...  is personal.  And today, I salute them.  I bet they walk through those front doors today, shut their classroom door and sob.  Maybe they won't know exactly why they're sobbing, or maybe they will.  Then they'll clear their eyes, check their mascara in the mirror, and open their doors with a smile.  They are thinking of their audience and they are thinking of those kids.   That's personal, and that's life.  Thank you, Sandy Hook teachers, for being so strong this past year, and showing all of us that it's okay for teaching to be more than a string of standards and text books.  Thank you for showing how personal teaching really is. 

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