A national tragedy impacts all of us.

I don’t want to imagine receiving an automated phone call from my child’s school telling me there has been a shooting there.  That’s what happened today in Newtown, CT after a gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School and began shooting.

When I heard there was a school shooting today in Connecticut, I immediately thought about my mother-in-law and my best friend who work in schools in Connecticut. As soon as I knew their schools weren’t targeted, I breathed a sigh of relief. And then I shuttered. Because so many other people are effected by today’s tragedy. While we all may not be impacted personally, those of us who are educators prepare for incidents like this with “Code Red” drills.  It is our worst nightmare.

President Obama is about to address the nation.  Information continues to pour in.  This post is not meant to capture what has happened thus far.  Turn to CNN or whatever you preferred media outlet is for that.  Instead, it’s my way to reflect on what I’ve heard this morning.  I always write when I try to process events like this.  So here is my writing: completely raw and full of emotion.

Parents should never have to go through this horror of burying a child.  There are parents sitting in a firehouse in Newtown, CT right now wondering if they will ever sing “Happy Birthday”  to their child again.   They’re wondering if they’ll be celebrating the holidays together.  Will there be art classes, music lessons, sports team practices, or swim meet?  Will their child graduate from high school or college?  Will s/he walk down the aisle at their wedding?  I cannot bear to think about the amount of lost moments that those who will not go home with their child are facing.

The media is talking about motive.  WHY did this happen?  There is no answer to why someone would go in and shoot innocent kids, faculty, and staff members.  Whether it’s religiously motivated or about bullying, there is never any justification for school shootings.  Columbine High School, West Nickel Mines School, and Ozar Hatorah: a few of the many school shootings I will never be able to wrap my mind around.

In recent months, I’ve been keeping my daughter away from almost all television.  It’s my sincere belief all children should be kept away from the media coverage and conversations about this school shooting.  They should not have to know about these horrific acts.  Young children shouldn’t have to worry if their school is going to be next.  School should be a safe place.  Most are.  Let’s not ruin the innocence of any more young children by talking about what happened in their presence.  (Though I do believe teachers should be prepared to have some remarks ready for Monday morning when some students will inevitably come into school and will want to talk about what they heard on the news this weekend.)

I’m also hearing the words “gun control” enter the conversation again.  We cannot put metal detectors at every entrance or arm teachers with guns. Those are not solutions. While I hesitate in making a political statement on this blog, I will say it’s my personal belief that we have to start talking seriously about the assault weapons ban in this country.  We have to stop just talking about it and take action before any more lives are lost in schools, movie theaters, shopping malls, etc.

Writer Jordana Horn posted the following on Twitter today:

If a handful of people can change the world for the worse, then I am certain that a handful of people can change the world for the better.

What will you do do to make this world of ours, which feels so broken right now, a better place?

14 thoughts on “A national tragedy impacts all of us.

  1. I am still working through my own feelings in this awful event. My husband doesn’t really want to talk about it. We don’t watch any news anyway, but I did talk briefly with my older son about it on Friday evening. He’s in fifth grade, and my guess is that his classmates will have heard at least something. I’d hate for that to be the way he finds out. I’m still struggling with deciding if I bring it up with my third grader. Again – will his classmates say something? He’s so perceptive, I’m sure he’ll piece something together on his own..


  2. @Stacey: I am glad to share. The last few titles were shared with me by Lorraine Savage and her co-author, Erin Morales-Williams. We all need to share all the resources we have got in the face of such an incomprehensible atrocity. Thanks for always doing what you do.

    Talking to Children Immediately After Traumatic Events

    Click to access _Children_Immediately_After_Traumatic_Events_0.pdf

    After a Traumatic Event: Tip Sheet for Schools

    Click to access ids_After_a_Tramatic_Event_Tip_Sheet_Schools.pdf

    After a Traumatic Event: Guidelines for Mental Health Professionals

    Click to access vent_Tip_Sheet___Mental_Health_Professionals.pdf

    Children and Grief: What they know, how they feel, and how to help

    For people who knew the victims directly:
    When Someone Close to Your Child Dies Suddenly: A Guide for Parents


  3. Dear friends, families and fellow educators; I am out of the country and had not heard of this horrible tragedy but I do have “Two Teachers” in my inbox. My heart and prayers are with you all at this time.
    Teaching in a developing country has it’s share of stress and difficulties but I honestly had never thought of the possibility of loss of life of my students or my fellow teachers as even a remote fear.
    How do I talk to my students about this happening in America? They look to England and USA as models of successes and heros.
    Parker Kelly
    Republic of Georgia


  4. Sad beyond sad…there seems to be no way to comprhend such tragedy. In awe of courageous teachers caring for children today. Heart aching for parents, siblings, families, friends, neighbors living this loss. Mind racing… what would we do at my school… why does this keep happening, getting worse every time… Calling out to my God, show us what to do. Help us hold on to hope. Help us keep caring, keep our hearts open when we would shut down to get away from the pain.


  5. I am deeply saddened by today’s tragedy, and I want to share this list with you. I am not sure if all these books are relevant to you because you may not have to discuss loss, death, and grieving or trauma. Sometimes you don’t pick the topic, the topic picks you. Be well. Love your children.
    Lifetimes: The beautiful way to explain death to children by Bryan Mellonie
    Nana’s Big Surprise / Nana, ¡Qué Sorpresa! by Amada Irma Perez
    Abuelo, ¿Dónde estás? by Elisa Mantoni
    George, the Goldfish / Jorge el Pez Dorado by Lone Morton
    Grandpa’s Slide Show by Deborah Gould
    The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst and Erik Blegvad
    Rudi’s Pond *about terminal illness and death of a child by Eve Bunting
    The Kissing Hand / Un beso en la mano *about separation by Audrey Penn
    When Something Terrible Happens: Children Can Learn to Cope with Grief by Heegaard, Marge
    When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death (Dino Life Guides for Families) by Laurie Krasny Brown
    A Terrible Thing Happened – A story for children who have witnessed violence or trauma by Margaret M. Holmes
    Gentle Willow: A Story for Children about Dying by Joyce C. Mills
    Always My Brother by Jean Reagan
    Michael Rosen’s Sad Book by Michael Rosen
    When a Friend Dies: A Book for Teens about Grieving and Healing ** For teens by Marilyn E. Gootman
    Nikki & Deja by Karen English**
    Willimena Rules by Valerie Wilson Wesley**
    Rich by Nikki Grimes**
    Yellow Bird and Me by Joyce Hansen**
    Heaven by Angela Johnson**
    Circle of Gold by Candy Dawson Boyd**

    **Lorraine Savage from Temple University shared the last six titles with me from this year’s LRA presentation, Reading Against the Grain. The title of her presentation with Wanda Brooks, also from Temple was: “Feminist Theory and Content Analysis: Developmental Depictions of Black Girls in Picture, Transitional and Chapter Books.”


  6. As teachers we work alongside families and watch the love and concern they have for their children. We watch friendships bud and grow among peers in our classrooms. To hear that today, children were ripped from those who loved and cared for them, in this senseless act, is unbelievable. I can not begin to imagine the grief and the long days ahead.


  7. I haven’t watched any footage yet. My husband called me to tell me what happened so I wouldn’t turn the TV on for any reason when I got home. I think he was shielding me as much as our two children. I could barely speak when he told me. All I could think is, what would I do if I witnessed such a horrifying act of violence? How would I protect MY kindergarten students?
    Early intervention, as mentioned above, is so true. I can continue to teach children how to solve problems and resolve conflict in respectful and meaningful ways. I can speak up when I think we aren’t intervening enough and try to find resources for parents to better meet the needs of their children. I can build relationships with children and their families. It is not just about the kids. So often the parents need tools to sustain the learning. To understand that problems have solutions and there don’t have to be lost causes when teaching a child to be tolerant and kind. Love them all. Love each and every one. And…teach them to love.


  8. I am a teacher in CT in a nearby town and I interned at Sandy Hook. My heart goes out to all of the staff and the students. As teachers we will do our best to minimize the conversation and do what we can to give them a sense safety.


  9. We are praying for all the people involved in this horrible and deeply disturbing event… how can we make our world safer? Can we start talking to each other? It can start with us. We can teach students to resolve conflict. We can support candidates that are serious about banning assault weapons. We also need to get help for students that display this kind of anger and irrational behavior. Again, I guess I just have to say it- it’s about early intervention.


  10. What is the answer? Is there one? We must do something, but what? This is scary and sad and tragic and unbelievable. I agree that we should turn off the TV. We should hold our children close and pray for the victims and their families.


  11. It’s hard for me too, Stacey. My grandkids are all this age and I just keep thinking that this could have been them. And you are right. This country needs to do something about assault rifles. I live in an area where hunting is a favorite pass time. I understand people have shotguns for hunting. But no civilian needs the type of rifle used in this massacre.


  12. I just heard that the gunman opened fire on his mother, who was a Kindergarten teacher, at Sandy Hook Elementary School. 18 of her students were killed.

    I’m sitting at my computer. My body is frozen. Only my fingers are moving since I just realized an entire class of five year-olds and their teacher are gone.


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