my first class as a teacher, 1992
I am a teacher. Every day I and my thousands of colleagues around the world go to work to protect children. We protect them against failure, against hopelessness, against giving in to negative urges that keep them from their best selves. And, yes, we protect them physically. We watch them on the playground, as they walk down our halls, while they eat their lunches. We remind them to get a drink of water when they are hot, to be careful while using scissors, and to wash their hands after they use the restroom. We protect them to the best of our ability each and every day.
Teachers become “mama bears” with their students. We advocate for them, stick up for them, and continually learn about them as individuals. We use our own money to buy classroom supplies, snacks and even items like shoes if it will make a difference to one of our kids. We teach them to think but also to empathize, problem solve, feel, discover, plan and reflect. We arrive at school hours before the buses roll in and leave long after the bell rings. It is not unusual for us to wake up in the middle of the night to plan a lesson or forget whether we already used conditioner in the shower because we were going over an intervention to try with a student later that day. We are on duty even when the school is closed up and empty.
You hear a lot of negative things said about teachers. It is said that we don’t work hard enough, that we get too much time off, that we can’t teach kids well enough to ace standardized tests. And, yes, there is room for improvement in our profession and we should be more open to the changes society asks of us. But you can’t question where are hearts are or how far we are willing to go to make sure your child is successful for a lifetime.
Last Friday we heard about how our fellow teachers in Connecticut went to the ropes for their students. I was heartbroken, sad but also very proud of the bravery those teachers displayed under horrendous conditions. And I know that if we had to, if any of us in any school was in that same situation, we would do the exactly what they did. Without thinking twice, we will shield our students from danger even if it puts us directly in its path.
A deranged individual has pulled the rug out from under us. But he can’t erase who we are and what we do. He can’t make us hide in our homes and be fearful of each other. Fifteen years ago he was protected by teachers, maybe even some of the same teachers he was targeting. We protected him then because that is what public schools do and will always do.
I know it will be hard for parents to watch their children board a school bus or to drop them off at school this week. I cannot change what happened and how it has and will continue to affect us. But I can promise you, we teachers will be there in full force prepared to do what we do best – protect, educate and care for your child at school. We will be on-duty and more visible than usual because we want you to know you can trust us with your precious child.