Sustaining Hopes and Dreams While Coping withTragedy

Our children don’t just write down their own hopes and dreams for the future at the beginning of each school year in our schools. Our children are our hopes and dreams.

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That’s why we take actions to ensure our schools are safe places.

When a tragedy occurs in any educational community in America, it touches every educational community. It rips at the heart and soul of everyone who chooses to work in a profession that serves young learners: bus drivers, cafeteria staff, teaching assistants, teachers, principals, central leaders, custodians, and support services staff. It creates fear among families and community members who cherish their children and entrust them to our care every day.

We all look for answers when a tragedy strikes; ones that will tell us that it can’t happen in our own school communities. Often, there are no answers.

Educators go to work every day knowing that a tragedy can occur. Regardless of the position we hold, we know we have to be ready for that. We also know that, statistically, children are less likely to be victims of violence or accidents at school or on school buses than in other places, and yet, in times such as this, the statistics do little to calm fears based in our children’s distance from our physical protection and the nature of public places.

We know that a tragedy can occur anywhere, whether it occurs as a the result of the weather, an accident or a purposeful act. We often wonder what we might say first to children when a tragedy occurs that affects them, even if it’s far away from our own community.

Mr. Rogers once shared that his mother told him:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”

Albemarle educators feel the pain of the Newtown community as we think about the children and adolescents we serve here and the losses suffered there. It will be difficult for educators to return to our schools on Monday, and look into the eyes of their students, after a tragedy as horrific as that which occurred in Connecticut on Friday. However, these same educational caretakers will rush to work Monday to do just that, to look into those eyes and share a sense of safety, and to share our communal commitment to all of our children.

I know that our educators have spent a long weekend thinking and reflecting and working to be sure that they are ready for the needs our students may bring to their classrooms on Monday. They will do what they do well on Monday morning and throughout the school year – they will listen to what our young people need and they will know what to say and how to say it in ways appropriate to each child’s needs.

They will use professional resources and guidance to help children who may have questions. The American Association of School Pyschologists, one of our resources for addressing the worries that children may bring to school with them after a school tragedy, notes that:

“Parents and school personnel can help children feel safe by establishing a sense of normalcy and security and talking with them about their fears.”

I trust in our staff as dedicated, caring and capable professionals who will be there for our children, especially those who may bring their worries to school with them this week. Teachers and principals are heroes for so many reasons. Educators take the role of “in loco parentis” very seriously, whether as a first-year teacher or a forty-year veteran.

Every day I hear stories of educators who have performed heroic acts of kindness, caring, and protection in support of children, with no intention of anyone ever knowing about their actions. Sometimes those actions become larger than the lives of those educators. When we hear the stories of tragedies such as this recent one in Connecticut we are all reminded of the strong character of America’s educators and their dedication to serving children.

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We are fortunate to have people willing to become educators, to dedicate their lives to children, and to even give those lives when called to do so in these most unspeakable tragedies. That’s why I value this profession and those who serve in it.

As we celebrate and cherish our children this week and this season let us also celebrate and be thankful to our educators  for being willing every day to do whatever it takes to protect, care for, and to help our children become all that they can possibly hope and dream to be.

What I will accomplish by the time

I am 100 years old: by a fifth grader

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