Tag Archives: parenting

Worry & Images: Thoughts on Boston


As I write tonight, I definitely have a heavy heart for those impacted by the tragic events associated with today’s Boston Marathon. When one of my third grade daughters came in our room post-bedtime tonight asking to sleep by us, I didn’t hesitate to say yes and keep her close. At this point, we haven’t talked to our kids about what happened and she seemed a bit surprised at my quick response. My thoughts have ranged from sadness for the loss to anger for senselessness to hope as we see those who respond and do good in the midst of such horrific, violent acts.

These shouldn’t be our worries…

Just a week ago Friday I was with my 5th grade son at his first official junior high event, his beginning band appointment. He went from seeming like a big kid…my oldest…to a little guy again as we walked into the junior high. I was so excited to see his enthusiasm, yet said some prayers for his courage, good decision making, and the hopes of good friends and good staff as he grows older. I think about the kids getting older, learning to drive, going to college… These should be my “Mom worries”.   In the past year, however, we’ve seen places like elementary schools, movie theaters, and, now, an athletic event turn into nightmares.

These shouldn’t be anybody’s worries…

Just yesterday at church, our pastor shared the story of Lopez Lamong, one of the Lost Boys of the Sudan who has grown to be an Olympian. His story starts when he’s a 6 year-old child taken by rebel soldiers. 12 years ago, when I was a 6th grade teacher, my student, Lum, couldn’t understand the magnitude of 9/11 because he and his family had been run from their home and their life in Kosovo through violent means; violence was his reality.

Be mindful of images…

Like many, I couldn’t believe today’s news as it unfolded in Boston. I’ve competed in the Chicago Marathon once (Well, competed might be a strong word 😉 ) and been a spectator numerous times as friends and family have taken the challenge to run. I’d agree with commentators I’ve seen throughout the day that few places are as motivating as a marathon. We see people from all walks of life accomplish something great. We think we can accomplish something great, too. As a mom to two Ethiopian-born daughters, I’ve pointed out the Ethiopian flag and talked to them about the champions from such events over the four years they’ve been with our family. Marathons are amazing events where people that don’t even know each other come together to cheer and encourage; if you’re in Chicago, you can even catch a really good Gyro at mile 16.5.

In messaging with Lauren Mazza tonight, though, the horrible images from the media really stood out. Just weeks ago, large media outlets refrained from replaying Kevin Ware’s hoops injury en route to a Louisville championship, citing respect for the athlete and his family. Today, though, graphic, alarming images were shown repeatedly from the scene in Boston. These people, too, are someone’s son, daughter, mother… We have to consider that. Recently, I was struck by the images from an Illinois school bus accident, and, just today, a car accident in our community. I lost my own grandparents in a car accident when I was 16, and I frankly don’t want an image from that scene to become the lasting image in my mind. I hope people in media will consider that. I hope that the power to portray the good in people eventually prevails.

I know that while days like today can fill us with worry and sadness, they can also inspire us to do better on behalf of those who no longer have that opportunity. Let’s try to share the good we see in the days that follow and in the other unrelated bright spots of our days. I owe that to my Tessa, who is taking up 2/3 of my bed right now as she safely sleeps. We all owe it to each other.

"I hope it stays…"

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?

My letter to families in the wake of tragedy

Below is the letter I shared with my school families this evening. Thank you to Joe Mazza, Bill Powers, Tony Sinanis, Dr. Spike Cook, Patrick Larkin and the countless others in my PLN who shared resources and ideas as we prepare to both lead our schools and send our own children to school. Best wishes for a Monday that focuses on the goodness of your school’s children, the dedication of your staff and support from your greater school community.

Dear East View Families,
Like you, I am spending part of my Sunday evening preparing to send my children to school tomorrow with my heart heavy from Friday’s events at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. While the district will issue a formal statement regarding this horrific tragedy, I wanted to connect with you as your child’s principal and as a parent before you send your much loved children our way to reinforce the following:
  • Thank you for trusting us with your children every day. Know that keeping your children safe is the single most important piece of our work at school and that your children are diligently cared for by our school staff.
  • The main office will continue to be the only point of entrance to school during the day, and we will continue the sign-in process for visitors.
  • I have instructed all staff to refrain from discussing Friday’s tragedy with students or with one another in the presence of students. We respect your role as a kindergarten parent on what you feel is appropriate to share with your child. If it is brought up by a student, the teacher will take that student aside to talk or involve me, Mrs. Schafermeyer, Mrs. Noll (our social worker), or another member of our team to ensure his or her needs are addressed. If your child needs to speak with someone outside of the classroom, you will be notified in the interest of working together. If you know your child is having a tough time, please feel free to contact his or her teacher, the office staff, or Mrs. Noll so we can support him or her.
  • Know that we conduct drills in partnership with local first responders to aid in our preparation for weather related or other events that may compromise the safety of our school community. Through those drills and ongoing conversation, we continue to revisit our plans and policies. Likewise, teachers and substitute teachers all have copies of our emergency procedures and know their role within those plans.
  • Mrs. Noll will be at our Home & School Organization meeting on Tuesday, December 18th at 7 p.m. to highlight how to talk to your children about this situation and answer any questions you might have from a social-emotional perspective.  You may also access the following resources to assist you : http://www.nasponline.org/resources/crisis_safety/talkingviolence.pdf  (http://www.nasponline.org/resources/crisis_safety/talkingviolence_spanish.pdf ).
Please don’t hesitate to contact any member of the East View team if we can support you or your children or if you have questions or feedback.
Kathy Melton