As 2013 quickly comes to an end, I spent this weekend remembering back to this time last year. The unfathomable had happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and we were all trying to hold it together and keep a brave face for all of our students and parents. I remember getting updates on my computer during that day and thinking this can't be happening. I remember all of us sitting in the library the following Monday, coming together to make a plan, to figure out how we were going to do our best to not let the outside news seep into our classrooms and our students' thoughts. We had to figure out how we were going to stand in front of kids and teach like we always do, while inside we were mourning Newtown. When I was finally able to get in my car and drive home, I cried the whole way home for those educators and those precious children. It was probably the hardest day for me in my entire education career. And this weekend, as I watched the news clips and videos of families who lost their children a year ago, I cried again.
For me, this week last year was emotionally draining. Starting the week in the aftermath of what happened at Sandy Hook was difficult. It became more difficult because I was awaiting the call from my mother. The call that my grandmother had passed away. We knew it was going to happen; it was a matter of days. I remember that once again I was sitting in the library after school; this time I was teaching a writing course for several of our teachers. That was one of those moments when I simultaneously loved the immediacy of cell phones and hated it at the same time. I wanted to know when my grandmother's life had ended, but at the same time, I did not want to answer that phone call. While I knew that my grandmother could not live forever, for the second time in a week I couldn't help but think this can't be happening. And again, I cried in my car on my drive home.
If you are still reading this blog entry, you might be wondering a.) is she trying to be a complete downer the week before the holiday break? or b.) does she cry all the time? or c.) why in the world is she telling all of us this? Well, fast forward to this year, to today, where I am sitting in Panera typing this blog. Before I began typing and before I had decided what my entry would be about, I watched a TedTalk video about a wildlife activist whose topic was 'What I learned from Nelson Mandela.' Just before he walked onto the stage to deliver his talk, he learned that Nelson Mandela had passed away. The man had grown up in South Africa and Nelson Mandela had in fact stayed with the man's family after he was released from prison. Mandela talked with his family about how his time in prison gave him time to think within, to "create in himself the things he most wanted for South Africa: peace, reconciliation, harmony." Mandela came to embody a phrase they use in South Africa: ubuntu or 'I am because of you.' People are not people without other people. This phrase struck me. It's not like this is some new concept, but it certainly gave me a different perspective as I thought about what happened a year ago.
Ubuntu, I am because of you. I think about the principal of Sandy Hook and the educators and students who lost their lives that day. I think about all of the staff, students, families who survived, who are still surviving since that day. Their lives have been forever changed. They are who they are because of what happened that day. And because of the interactions that have happened with so many others as a result of that day. We are who we are today, a school that is acutely aware every day that we are trusted to protect children, because of our indirect interactions with the families of Newtown.
Ubuntu, I am because of you. I think about my grandmother. There is no doubt in my mind that I am who I am today, a caring, dedicated educator, because of my grandmother. I have so many wonderful memories of our education talks. She was always interested in what was going on in the world of education, and I know she was proud of my mother and I for becoming educators. She understood my dedication to having a positive impact on the lives of children. I am who I am today, an opinionated instructional leader who advocates for kids, because of my grandmother.
Ubuntu, I am because of you. We are the teachers that we are because of our interactions with each other and especially because of our interactions with our students. So as you finish out 2013 this week in your classrooms, think about the kind of educator that you are. Who has helped you become who you are? How have your students molded you into the teacher you are today? How will you change as your interactions change? How have your interactions with others and the world around you impacted you? How will these interactions continue to impact you in 2014? We need all kinds of interactions with humanity, the sad, the happy, the engaging, the uncomfortable; we need all of these interactions. It is these connections that make us who we are.
So...who are you?
Friday night I enjoyed a quick, fun read: The Trouble with Chickens.
Last weekend, at the holiday fair, there was the used book sale set up in the hallway. I know, you are probably surprised to learn that I purchased some used books from the sale. I told you I have an addiction! :)
I started reading one of my new purchases this weekend: Dewey, The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World. This book is about a cat named Dewey Readmore Books who ended up living in the Spencer Public Library in Iowa. I have to say that even though I'm only a third of the way through the book, I do love the way the author writes:
"There is a thousand-mile table of land in the middle of the United States, between the Mississippi River on the east and the deserts on the west. Out here, there are rolling hills, but no mountains. There are rivers and creeks, but few large lakes....Out here, the roads are straight, stretching to the horizon in long, unbroken lines. There are no corners, only occasional, almost imperceptible bends....Exactly every mile, every road is intersected by another almost perfectly straight road. Inside is a square mile of farmland. Take a million of those square miles, lace them together, and you have one of the most important agricultural regions in the world. The Great Plains. The Bread Basket. The Heartland. Or, as many people think of it, the place you fly over on your way to somewhere else. Let them have the oceans and mountains, their beaches and their ski resorts. I'll take Iowa."
I can tell by her writing that she is a librarian who has read a ton. It's amazing the impact our reading habits have on our writing. I'd like to think that with all of the reading our students have been doing this year...think about the positive impact that is bound to have on their writing!
Events this week:
Monday - Deep breaths everyone...it is the week before the holiday break...I think we can, I think we can, I think we can...
Tuesday - Data shredder will be emptied today
Wednesday - Tacky Holiday Outfit Day! (There will be a prize given out at the staff meeting!) 4th grade chorus @2:25 in the gym, Staff meeting @3:30
Thursday - HS Band Concert @ 9:30 in the PAC, Shivani D. will be our Principal for the Day!
Friday - HS Chorus Concert @ 9:30 in the gym, HS Chorus Concert @ 1:00 in the gym
Happy holidays and see everyone in 2014!
Great things I noticed last week:
- Recently I recommended an historical fiction book, The Birchbark House, to Mr. Smith's 3rd grade class. They have been reading it as a class read aloud, and they wanted to tell me that they had become very attached to the characters. We had a great discussion about how good books have the ability to pull you into them and bring out different emotions in us. I was excited to hear that several students had liked the read aloud so much...they went to the library and found their own copy to read!
- Have you seen the gingerbread baby? He is on the loose and our kindergarten students have been collecting clues. Mrs. Cook's class visited me in the office and I told them I thought I saw him running down the second grade hall. Mrs. Taylor's class wrote a missing poster and created a giant gingerbread house in the hopes of luring him back.
Hmmm...are you engaging our active learners?