One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.
I love children. I love teaching. Over the years I’ve had a few assignments which involved teaching adults but it’s the Summer I taught English to four young teenagers (my son included) that is most memorable.
I loved sharing about the magic of words and how they could touch readers/listeners emotionally when wielded properly. We had fun writing essays, expanding our vocabulary and letting our imagination run wild interpreting cartoon images. We wrote funny stories using popular Bajan sayings and paused to think about more serious themes which involved letters thanking our parents for the many ways they showed their love of us and to us. The weeks flew by and classes ended far too soon but the experience made me appreciate my own teachers, those brave men and women who tried their best to get my thick mind to digest simple and not so simple concepts; concepts which would not only help me to pass theoretical tests at school but would put me ahead of the game much later on in life when I entered the rough world of work.
As soon as I have time, I hope to enjoy another such Summer. Until then, I admit that I fear for the lives of our teachers; those men and women dedicated to nurturing our children for terms/semesters at a time; the individuals who successfully instill a passion for learning and living not only in the classroom but outside the boundaries of four walls as well; the “mind-magicians” who do their best … all the while facing the reality of being brutally gunned down while doing their job – by a student.
Although I live many many miles away from the USA I assure you that the deaths of the children who lost their lives on December 14 last year during the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting will be forever etched in memory.
Here in the Caribbean we will never forget the stark horror of this event as summed up in this short but graphic excerpt from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_school_shootings_in_the_United_States:
Adam Lanza, aged 20, killed 26 people and himself at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. He first killed his mother at their shared home before taking her guns and driving to the school. Lanza brought four guns with him; A Bushmaster .223 caliber XM15-E2S rifle, a Glock 10mm handgun, a Sig-Sauer P226 9mm handgun, and an Izhmash Saiga-12 12 gauge shotgun which was later found in the trunk of the car and not used in the shootings. During the attack, 20 first-grade children aged six and seven were killed, along with six adults, including four teachers, the principal, and the school psychologist. Two others were injured. Lanza used the Bushmaster .223 caliber rifle against all of the victims at the school. He then took his own life with one of the handguns as police arrived at the school. According to the state’s chief medical examiner, H. Wayne Carver, all of the victims were shot between 3 and 11 times.
This site also confirms 11 more shooting incidents at American schools in 2012 prior to the one at Sandy Hook, and which by the end of that year had left approximately 41 persons dead. Unfortunately, the stats do not get any better. In 2013 the list looks just as grim, showing sixteen incidents to date, with eight of these being recorded in the month of January alone.
But what do you do when a child fatally shoots a teacher? What words do you use to calm those left behind? How do you comfort the families who lost loved ones? How do we move past the real fear of death roaring fearlessly in our classrooms and along our school halls? And what can a parent possibly say to a daughter or son to help them make sense of it all when we ourselves have no clue?
I am honestly not sure; I admit that I have many questions but no ready answers. Maybe we need to work on doing as much as we can to make sure these things do not happen in the first place: like,
if we have guns in our homes do everything humanly possible to keep them locked away from our children,
educate/warn them about the serious danger of guns and how life cannot be replaced once gone,
and by extension tell them why they shouldn’t be bullies or more importantly how to get help if they are being bullied – in both instances minus violence and guns.
The above may all seem somewhat superficial in the face of lives lost and as I said, I do not have the cure for these unfortunate situations.
So for now, I encourage us to:
show our support as we join in mourning the loss of Michael Landsberry, the courageous teacher who was killed in the Sparks Middle School shooting – by a 12 year old with a semi-automatic pistol, no less – earlier this week,
understand as we listen to news reports that even though the parents of the child may be charged in this particular case, we acknowledge with sorrow that this will never bring Mr. Landsberry back to life,
pause with relatives to remember all those who have died while selflessly protecting our children and keeping them safe from harm over the years,
and pray God’s covering over all teachers – whether in the USA or somewhere else, whether they teach Art or Literature or Physics, whether they are young or old, whether they teach kindergarten or tertiary level – because in this world of deadly automatic weapons and blatant bullying, our prayers are truly needed.