My thoughts keep going to the teacher who read.
The teacher who, in the midst of the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy, locked her door, gathered “her” children into the corner and read. Read to calm them. To calm herself. And hopefully, to give those children something to concentrate on other than the screams and gunshots they must have been hearing.
Such presence of mind does not come to someone who is not born to work with children.
I come from a family of teachers. My mother taught before she became a healthcare executive. Three of my sisters teach—one at the elementary level, one at the secondary level, and a third at the graduate level, as a law school professor. Needless to say, I have a couple of nieces and nephews who have also followed that calling.
I don’t use the word “calling” lightly. Imagine your child in that Connecticut classroom with a teacher who was in it for summers off. One who didn’t want to have to deal with your child’s special needs, anxiety, frustration with math, homesickness—you fill in the blank. I’m sure basic humanity would have caused any adult in that building to protect those kids’ lives as best they could. But, given the choice, I’d want the teacher who died trying to shield those children because she loved them—not just because of basic human instinct. I’d want the teacher who calmly read to them as a truly disturbed soul wreaked havoc outside the door, trying to protect whatever innocence they had left after hearing and witnessing such a horrific scene. Acts like that are motivated by true love, true caring and a knowledge that you are there, with those children, at that time and place, for a reason. Just as you have been each day of their school life since September. For a reason. You’re called in your soul to do it.
Come on, folks. You know within the first 10 minutes of a parent/teacher conference if your child has a teacher with a vocation to teach or someone who thought this was the path of least resistance. Admit it.
If we really care, as parents, we’ll put in place tough school boards, stellar superintendents and principals with high standards. But above all, we’ll accept no less than teachers who are called to serve our kids, taking a page out of Michelle Rhee’s book. We’ll hold them to high standards and pay based on merit, just like any good organization does. For teachers who are anything like those we’re hearing about at Sandy Hook Elementary, that pay scale should be off the charts.
Executives who oversee companies that make widgets receive six-figure salaries. Execs who sell us the shampoo we use in the shower each day are paid more, many times, than the teachers to whom we entrust our children’s education (and unfortunately in these times, their innocence and safety). In what world does that make sense?
So, while we reconsider the wisdom of semiautomatic weapons, let’s also reconsider the value of those to whom we entrust our children every day. We should be tough. We should be fair. And while we mourn, we should think of the teacher who calmly read amidst chaos. You can’t pay that woman enough.