These are our kids. We do not leave them behind when the school doors close.
As a preschool teacher in a tight-knit town, I carry my cherubs in my heart and mind around the clock. I wake up with new ideas for their morning activities. I know what their favorite colors are, whether they like bear hugs, their favorite games to play. I’ve taught many of their siblings. I know the serious stuff, too – who is allergic to peanuts, who has attention difficulties, whose parents are splitting up.
While they are with me, their safety is paramount. I’m always counting heads. But one thing that had never crossed my mind until the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School: whether one of my classes of a dozen 3- and 4-year-olds could fit into the bathroom.
In my 11 years of teaching, I’ve never been more proud of my profession. Or more saddened for a town similar to mine that thrives on a daisy chain of support among families, friends, teachers and other professionals.
Hours after Sandy Hook teacher Kaitlin Roig barricaded her first-graders in a bathroom to shield them from gunshots, she shared her story on television:
“I put one of my students on top of the toilet,” she recalled on ABC News. “I was telling them, it’s going to be OK, you’re going to be all right. I told them to be absolutely quiet because I was just so afraid if he did come in, he would hear us and start shooting the door. I said there are bad guys out there now. We need to wait for the good guys.”
Think brave thoughts. Read books. Draw and color. Stay close. Know that you’re loved. Show me your smile. Those were the basics that many of Sandy Hook’s teachers used to try to create calm amid chaos at a school under siege.
The “good guys” came, and continue to come. Told and retold are the heroic stories of the beloved principal and five women on her staff who gave up their lives trying to save their students. Memories have been shared about the goodness and delight of 20 children whose families and teachers adored them and always will. Their favorite colors, their favorite games, what they wanted to be when they grew up, who had a wiggly tooth and who had already lost two teeth – all the things that are important when you’re 6 or 7. It’s all part of history now.
My son is 23. But my kids are only 3 and 4. If I’ve taught them anything this school year, it’s that the “good guys” are on their side. Think brave thoughts. Read books. Stay close. Show me your smile. And know that you are loved.
Betsy Flagler is a mother and preschool teacher. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with tips or questions.