December 23, 2012

Thank You, Kaitlin Roig

For the past week, the media have been fiercely debating gun control, in light of the Sandy Hook shooting. I don't care to add to that debate today. Instead, I will say that I'm glad to see a national conversation around the importance of mental health care.

As a teacher, it hits close to home when I hear about a school shooting. I was particular touched by the story of teacher, Kaitlin Roig, who barricaded herself and her first-grade class into a bathroom and whispered to them, "I want you all to know that I love you very much." She said in interviews that she wanted those to be the last words each child heard.

What an exceptional teacher!

There are so many things that happen within a school that are out of our control. This, of course, is an extreme example, but there are so many external factors that impact what happens within our classrooms. The one thing we can control, though, is making sure all of our students know they are special, to know that they're loved.

I kept that idea in the forefront of my mind last week as we battled our way through three days of testing. It helped me keep things in perspective. The boy in the back who taps endlessly on his desk isn't being bad, he just has a lot of energy. The girls that can't stop talking during the exam are just looking to connect with each other about their excitement over the impending break.

I hugged each and every one of my students as they left the building on Wednesday. I wished them all a wonderful break (though I know, for many, it won't be anything special) and told them I loved them and would miss them. And I meant it.

And I'm choosing to come back to school in 2013 with this story, and the others just like it, in my mind. I'm going to make even more of an effort to make sure my students know that I care about them as people, not just as learners. I want them to believe they are my priority, not the administration, parents, or curriculum. None of those things matter without my students.

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