I can’t imagine a parent or an educator who didn’t think of the families in Newtown, Connecticut at some point this holiday season. For me, those times came both at school and at home; in both cases, amidst real disbelief, came near equal awe from some of the good that has come forth. Then this morning, I was reading a post on Ed Week where teacher Connie Sullivan talked about the special place Sandy Hook Elementary was long before the events of December 14th. She concluded her thoughts speaking to the people that have stepped up to help the community move forward, saying, “We obviously live in a state, we live in a country, that wants to help…If this is what comes out of this, I hope it stays.”
What do I hope stays?? My mind first goes to student arrival on Monday, December 17th. Having been scheduled to be at a conference, I simply decided my school was where I needed to be that morning. The night prior, I sent my families a letter via e-mail, as I thought it important that they hear from me before they sent their children to us that Monday morning. Likewise, rather than my normal spot in the foyer where I could greet both bussed students and those transported by parents, I headed outdoors to the parent drop-off line where I could greet and reassure our moms and dads. That was among the most emotional, memorable experiences I’ve encountered as a school administrator. Our kindergarten children, most of them unaware of the tragedy that had taken place, came bounding in to school as if it were any other day. My staff put their own worries, fears, and sadness aside in preparation for the day ahead, starting with those morning duties. The most vivid images before me, however, were of parents walking their children to the front door or letting them out in the car line. In really its most simple form, that love from parents to children was never so evident. Rather than the normal rush and routine, I saw many extra hugs and longer-than-normal looks as students headed into school. There really wasn’t any need for those parents to say what they were thinking and what their own worries might be. What I wasn’t prepared for, though, were the expressions of appreciation from our school families that came both in writing and in spoken words; for the acknowledgement of the tremendous responsibility we feel for their children’s future and present; for the loyalty and conviction spoken by some when doubters questioned our district or public schools in general; and for the patience with one another as we revisit and adjust procedures.
I’m not saying the terrible images of what happened in Newtown have left my memory as a principal or a parent, nor that I haven’t looked at my own kids, my school kids, and my staff in a different light. I’m not saying I can even begin to understand how those parents, educators, first responders, and community members move forward. I do hope, however, that open expression of love from parents to kids stays. I hope patience with one another stays. I hope the understanding that my staff and I place student safety in the highest regard and protect these children as our own stays. I hope as school leaders, we continue to check in on and support one another in this challenging work. I hope consideration for what is best for children continues to take priority over adult convenience. I hope we remember that as parents and schools, we are on the same team and can accomplish so much more when we work together.
What do you hope stays? How can we multiply the good in the teachers and the students lost and honor them through gains in our own school communities?