I was going to share an idea we used in one of my classes to review what we covered, but sharing about what we teach or how we teach just didn’t seem like the right thing to share. Tragically we were all numbed and saddened by what happened last week in Newtown, Conn. Then the stories about the children and teachers/adminstrators who were killed began to come out and I started to reflect about why we teach. For close to thirty five years I have worked at the high school level, where every day, other high school teachers such as me see five/six different classes of students on a daily basis for about 50-60 minutes every day. But for elementary teachers, their school day is much different. They see their students every day, all day for the entire year. Imagine having to deal with the same kids every day, every period, all year. I’ve tried to imagine that and each time I keep thinking how much more of a challenge it would be for me to attempt that type of teaching situation. That’s why I have always admired and respected the work that elementary teachers do on a daily basis. Then Friday happened.
I have read many of the stories and watched most of the videos, but the one clip that really brought me to the understanding of why teachers teach was the one about Kaitlin Roig, one of the first grade teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary. In it she describes what she told her kids while locked in the bathroom. Her concern was that they would never see their parents or family again and she wanted to make sure that the last thing that they heard was that they were loved. For some reason, Kaitlin and her students were spared, but there were other teachers and administrators who died trying to save the children they saw every period, every day, all year long.
For most of those thirty five years, going to school has been something I looked forward to. While I didn’t see my students all day, seeing them in class and seeing how they progressed from day one to the end of the year was always a good feeling. But I have to be honest, there were days, and there still are, when a certain class just didn’t or doesn’t seem to want to be there and trying to keep them motivated was and is a real challenge. Then I read about Kaitlin and some of her fellow workers and it became abundantly clear that what we teach and how we teach is secondary to why we teach. For Kaitlin and others, teaching wasn’t a job; it was a relationship that developed between her and her students who love coming to her class, every period, every day, all year long. What greater tribute can we make to teachers like Kaitlin Roig, those that died trying to protect their class, and others who work with young children, than to reflect on why we teach? Perhaps then, the tragedy, the anguish, and the deaths of 26 innocent children and adults will not have been in vain.
Today is not to worry about how we teach or what we teach.