Teachers are heroes: “Just Do What Works”
Mrs. James is my hero. She teaches the 4th grade at an elementary school near me. I am the fortunate recipient of two “pals” from her class. On Wednesdays, I get to go and play games with them for half an hour during their “lunch period.” If you can call 10:30 am a lunch period.
This week, it felt eerie walking into the building. I walked with my head down thinking about how another person, a young man, did this very same thing with a very different intent. I went to the buzzer, stood in front of it so they could see who I was, was buzzed in and then went to the main office to sign in and get a name tag.
The office computer “knows me.” My name comes up in the data base to record my volunteer hours. This so regimented, so right, so safe. And yet, today, I wonder.
How are these halls different? What do these children know of what’s happened in their world? I walk to the cafeteria past classrooms in full swing. Kids line up in the halls to move to lunch and recess and gym. They are orderly, smiling, engaged. Nothing. Nothing seems different. It is I who am different.
I am worried what I will say if my pals bring up the shooting. If they are afraid. If they are concerned. If they are sad. I will not bring it up if they don’t, but I must be prepared to answer their questions. To assure them they are safe and cared for and loved.
There is not even a hint of concern between them. We have a wonderful time. We agreed last week that this week we would be teachers, pretending to teach using the dry erase board. We all take a turn at being the teacher. The other two are classmates, sometimes one of us is a “new” student to the class. With each new “teacher” there are introductions, welcomes, and reminders to “let’s treat each other like we would like to be treated.” One time I pretend to talk while the teacher is talking and I am cautioned by a very serious 10 year old, “I don’t want to have to pull out my ‘blue’ cards.”
When our time is up I bid a farewell to my pals. “Go. Run. Play,” I tell them as they run onto the playground. And they smile and do, waving along the way.
I see Mrs. James, their teacher, out on playground duty and I walk over to her and smile. “This must be quite a week to be a teacher,” I say.
She agrees, although she tells me she was surprised the children didn’t have more questions until she asked if they had any. “Then the flood gates opened,” she said. “Mostly, they wanted to know the details of the incident, but I just wanted to be sure they felt safe.”
“I was surprised at the young teacher, Victoria, who hid her children,” I said. “What presence of mind.”
Mrs. James said, “You have to think of the children first. It’s automatic. Your top priority.” But then she went on. “Mine are too big to put in cabinets. I would put them out the window. And we usually tell them to stand quietly. But I would tell them to run as fast as you can for the neighborhoods and scream their heads off.”
She pushed back the locks of hair that threatened to cover one eye so she could look straight at me. “You have to do what works.”
She had taken in this tragedy and felt completely prepared to save her children. Now I knew why the children in her class felt so secure.
And also why my two pals have both said to me, “I wanna be a teacher.” Mrs. James is not just my hero.
Posted on December 24, 2012, in In Action, Life and tagged children, elementary schools, heroes, mentoring, Newtown, PALs program, serving, teachers, Teaching. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.