Just last night over dinner I sat talking to my partner about the harder side of teaching.
“Threat assessments,” I found myself saying. “Suicide prevention, lock-down drills and a game plan.”
I watched his eyes widen.
“Are you safe?” he asked. “I don’t like this. I don’t like this at all.” He had never before heard me talk about all the darker details of my daily job. All the planning, postulating and prevention that goes in to keeping our campus protected. All the small signs I’ve learned to watch for in struggling students, all the times we’ve called a meeting, managed a suspension, or sent a kid straight from school to the mental health ward of a hospital in order to try and keep our small little world safe.
“I want you out of the classroom,” he told me in a protectively irrational moment of fear.
“I’m fine,” I said. “I’m as safe as I’d be anywhere, anytime.”
Like watching the midnight premiere of a movie in my local theater, perhaps.
And then I woke to the news.
Connecticut. As safe as anywhere. Anytime.
And I did what all teachers do. I gasped. I saw myself in my own classroom, with my own students. I wondered which ones of them would have made it out alive, which ones would have fallen. I wondered if I would have made it out alive. If I would have had the courage to protect them or would I have caved and run. I went over the layout of my classroom in my head…”Where’s the door? Could we get out the windows? What’s the closest shelter once we hit the pavement and start running?”
I watched the hurt, frightened, and angry comments line up on Facebook. Once again, national outrage. Once again, the gun debate. Once again, finger pointing and soul searching.
So I decided to take a different view.
The view that despite the tragedy, there is more good than bad. The view that more than danger, schools provide safety. The view that although we’re not perfect, we’re doing damn well.
And I decided to give my own small pieces of evidence to prove it.
Like that just this week, I saw a bully sharing lunch with the kid he used to pick on. Just this week, a student with significant disabilities sidled up to me shyly and whispered, “Is it okay if I bring you a Christmas present?” Just this week, I caught the kid who thought he would fail bragging to a friend “Yeah, I always get A’s. It’s just that I’m really good at Spanish.” Just this week, the sullen girl from the beginning of the year sat gabbing in my room about how great her teachers were. “They never talk down to me,” she said. “And they always think that I can do it!” Just this week, I know of three students who got the counseling they needed because teachers intervened.
Just this week…
There was one shooting, but there were endless acts of good.
And so, without the slightest intention of minimizing the horror or tragedy for the families in Connecticut, I’m challenging you to honor the good. To recognize the successes that are happening every day, in every classroom, in every town. Including Newtown.
We will learn from this. We will get better. But even while we heal, in tiny little classrooms and giant auditoriums across the country, the acts of kindness will outnumber the acts of horror. The good will outdo the bad. Hope, progress and the giggles of children learning will rise above the fear.
So let us be the good. Tell us what you saw this week. Leave your little bit of positivity below like a tiny prayer for victims’ families, and pass it on.
For every act of horror, let there be a thousand acts of good.