Wonderment… Excitement… Innocence… Lost.
This is not a typical blog post you see on this site. But today is not a typical day. Tears keep flowing and I’m not sure how to make them stop. This one has hit me hard. I’ve worked in hundreds of schools and with thousands of educators across this country. As I travel to different locations I often get asked by strangers what I do. Unfortunately, I have been known to give the response, “I’m just a teacher.” Starting today I promise to never use that response again, and I hope my fellow educators vow to do the same. We aren’t “just teachers.” During my 25-year tenure, our roles of “teacher” have changed to include: mentor, nurse, counselor, often times a parent, and most importantly protector. Eva Mireles and Irma Garcia were true Superheroes in their community, they were way more than “just teachers.”
These past three years have been beyond challenging in so many ways. But teachers did what teachers do, and they rose to the challenges. They went above and beyond what was asked of them. When asked to learn how to teach remotely, they quickly added new skills to their toolbox and learned to use Zoom, Google Classroom, Google Meet, etc. When asked to figure out a plan to teach kids both in the classroom and at home, they pivoted again and developed new ways to instruct. When asked to still teach social skills but you can’t have students near each other, they figured it out.
When is enough going to be enough? I remember as a student and when I first entered the profession we had our monthly fire drills and our spring tornado drills. But then we were asked to do lock-down drills and ALICE training. All the while trying to reassure our little ones that these drills are only “in case” something happens, but don’t worry we will keep you safe. I haven’t met a teacher out there who wouldn’t put their life in front of one of their students to protect them. But my question is this, who is protecting our teachers? Why do we think it’s ok to keep asking teachers to take on more roles, roles they haven’t been adequately trained to do? I didn’t go to school to become a law enforcement officer, I didn’t go to school to become a nurse, I didn’t go to school to be a mental health counselor… I went to school to become a teacher. I chose to work with children to teach them how to read, how to write, how to work with numbers, how to be members of a community, and how to conduct science experiments. That’s what I’ve been trained to do, and for the most part, I would say I have been pretty successful.
What happened yesterday is beyond tragic. I can only hope it is a call to action. Something needs to change in our country. Parents should not be afraid to send their children to school in the morning. Teachers should not have to worry about having the right tools in their toolbox to protect their students against an armed intruder. Students should not have to lose their innocence, their excitement, their wonderment because our elected officials can’t agree. There is so much craziness going on everywhere else, schools in this country should be a safe haven.
As educators, we are all natural-born lifesavers. We spend our days wanting to jump in and save, guide and protect. It’s what we’ve been trained to do. Eva Mireles and Irma Garcia, you were the ultimate lifesavers yesterday. I promise that I will not forget your sacrifice and I will use my voice as much as I can to honor your memory. Staying quiet isn’t working…
To all my friends and colleagues in the world of education…THANK YOU for what you do! Stay safe!