Back to School With New Worries, But The Same Plan

Official seal of Newtown, Connecticut
Official seal of Newtown, Connecticut (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I dropped my six-year old daughter off at school Friday at about 8:30.  As I walked her in the front door, we were greeted by the Principal who greets every child who walks in the door at the school each morning. Then we ran into my daughter’s teacher who asked if she wanted to go to the classroom early with her since the buses were a few minutes from arriving. I drove away from the school feeling very much at peace with the fact that my daughter would have another great day in her first grade class and would return home safely at the end of the day.

But before my daughter finished her school day, our world was turned upside-down due to the unimaginable occurrence at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. I am not going to rehash the details here as we are all aware of the unfathomable events that took place.  However, the reality is that as both a parent and administrator I now have new worries to contend with that never would have entered my mind before yesterday.  Parents like me, who sent their kids off to school feeling the same sense of security I did with my daughter, did not have their kids return home safely.

The emotional roller coaster that we have all been on since Friday is something that is unprecedented.  But in spite of all of this, my first grader, my seventh grader, my ninth grader, and my three step-children will all return to their schools tomorrow where they will be put in the hands of wonderfully caring teachers and administrators just like those at Sandy Hook.

As we get ready to start the new week, I have been searching for words to help make sense of this. The words of Robert Evans, Ed.D. and Mark Kline, Psy.D. from Wellesley’s community mental health agency sum up the uncomfortable truth we are all grappling with:

“There is no technology or template for coping with this kind of event. We feel shock and disbelief, sorrow for the victims, anger at its unfairness…And most of us think immediately about how to be helpful to our children.”

Our ultimate goal as parents and educators is to do everything in our power to support our children during this traumatic period.  Again Evans and Kline have advice for us:

Above all, coping with such an awful event is not primarily a matter of technique, not something best handled by a particular set of tactics that deviate sharply from one’s familiar patterns of communication. The regular routines of both school and family life are, all by themselves, a source of comforting continuity and assurance. Adults will rarely go wrong by relying on what is most basic between them and their children—caring and connection. At these times, your presence—your simply being with them, their knowing that you are available—can be just what they need.”

We will be present tomorrow and we will continue to care deeply for our students.  There will never be an alternative.

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