A bit of a departure from the normal tone today. Read on for some reflections on the anniversary of the Columbine school shooting.
Eleven years ago, I saw my math teacher for who she really was.
I was sitting in my math class (yes I was still in high school eleven years ago) and my math teacher was hanging up the phone. She had just been told about the tragedy at Columbine High School.
I never cared much for this particular math class. I usually spent her class studying vocab words for my infamous English class after I did my math homework. This was usually while she lectured or while I was supposed to be doing group work. I know, it's always the worst kids who grow up to be teachers!
But on that particular day eleven years ago, I saw something new in the teacher's eyes. When she sat us down to talk with us and let us ask questions, it wasn't fear or sadness or anger or shock that I saw. I wasn't quite sure what it was until I realized I had seen the same look in my own mother's eyes. It was a look I knew well. One that said "Nothing evil can come between me and these kids. Now leave or I will MAKE you leave."
When my math teacher had heard that some kids had been harmed under the watch of a teacher, she had reacted like a mother bear. The look I saw was the look of a protector. I knew when I saw that look that she wasn't thinking about her own safety or wondering how the other teacher's were handling their classes. I knew she wasn't debating whether or not to turn on the news or wondering what the new school policies on trench coats would be. I knew the only thing on her mind was that right then and there, she was responsible for us kids.
I wish I could say I stopped using math as my own private study hall after that day. Much to my own regret I was still a prat all through high school. But I think somewhere, deep down, my ideas about teaching changed that day.
I know that when a parent drops their child off for school, they trusting some teacher to protect their child for them. Some teacher that they didn't even get to choose! And I know that for a mama bear, that can be tough. Because sometimes bad things happen. They just do. The world can be an awful, awful place. I'm not saying teachers can stop bad things. But I'm saying there's a huge amount of trust that goes into giving someone your kid all day.
In the last two years, since I have quit my desk job, I have already done two fire evacuations and a full gun lock down. None of them were drills. All had happy endings, thank goodness. And each time I got that emergency backpack, checklist, roll call, and silent position, I thought of my math teacher from high school.
And I thought about how in the days and years following the Columbine tragedy, I have been so very fortunate to have people in my life to protect me, and even more fortunate to never need them.