The Notebook

Conversations about Learning, Educating, and Teaching

We ARE Sandy Hook Elementary
Ted Wilson

Over the weekend, we have all struggled to come to grips with the senseless tragedy which occurred in Connecticut last Friday morning. Around the country, school leaders have responded by reaching out to their own communities. They are talking, hugging, crying and seeking comfort in each other. Dr. Ted Wilson, President of Schools for Children, sent the following thoughts to faculty members in the affiliated schools (Lesley Ellis, Dearborn, STEP and Seaport) as they prepared to return to work on Monday. His notes are titled "We ARE Sandy Hook Elementary" and reflect on the thread that connects all those who work in schools.

                  We ARE Sandy Hook Elementary

Every day, we accept the awesome responsibility of caring for young people. Their parents entrust them to us when they put their precious children on our vans or when they bring them into our corridors themselves. They have faith that at the end of the day these same children will, at the very least, be returned safely to them. It is a sacred covenant between schools and families.

We ARE Sandy Hook Elementary

Every day, our teachers, counselors, specialists, administrators and support staff come to work knowing that the first requirement of their job is to be vigilant. We must provide a safe place for children to engage in learning. Yet, children trip over unseen hurdles, crash into each other while at play, cut themselves working with tools and fall off of things. Students get upset with each other or with their teachers; they bring in feelings and life pressures we can only imagine.  These are the normal, day-to-day occurrences in every school in every part of the country. We accept these challenges even as we focus on finding ways to inspire new learning.

We ARE Sandy Hook Elementary

We live in a confusing, chaotic, scary world where awful things happen. We know of tragedies in theaters, malls and the streets of our communities. We know that there are people who hurt others and that we must take extraordinary steps to honor our covenant to care for the children and to keep them safe. We lock our doors, limiting access to our buildings. We install cameras and touch pads to monitor our hallways. We buy special ‘wands’ to check for unsafe possessions. We plan and practice lock down procedures ‘just in case’. We talk … and we talk … and we talk to make sure we all know what to do and so we are all alert to potential problems in our midst.

We ARE Sandy Hook Elementary

We now know that unspeakable horrors can come our way without the slightest warning or provocation. We understand that sophisticated warning systems can be thwarted, that angry or hurting people can bring massive pain to others and that ordinary people can be called upon to shield and protect the children in their care in ways that put themselves at risk. We feel the sorrow, the hurt and the anger when even that is not enough to keep them safe.

We ARE Sandy Hook Elementary

We grieve with the parents and teachers and classmates. We honor the spirits of those who were killed in such a brutal and nonsensical way. We weep at the loss of innocence.  We feel the loss of a season of lights and good cheer being upended by this tragedy. We look for ways to comfort each other. We prepare to listen for the confusion and fear and nervousness that our children will bring to school when they come back…for they will come back.

We ARE Sandy Hook Elementary

We renew our commitment to do everything in our power to keep our children safe and out of harm’s way. We renew our commitment to engage each of them in the excitement of being with each other and with the joy of learning new things. We renew our commitment to share what we know and who we are with every child and young person entering our classrooms. More than ever, we accept the awesome responsibility that comes with working in a school … it is a life-affirming privilege for each of us.