There are parts of my job I love beyond belief. Those things get me up every day, remind me why I teach and steel my commitment as an educator.
And there are times like today, where we sit in the aftermath of history in the making. I’ve been here before as an educator.
For the Oklahoma City bombing.
For Sandy Hook.
For George Floyd.
Each and every one of those times, I wrestled with my own fears, my own grief, my own confusion and doubt. And each and every one of those times, I have had to consider how I will get up the next morning, put my game face on, and support my students as they wrestle with the same.
It’s strange and sad to me that I know how to do this, how to counsel children in times of national grief. I’ve done this time and time and time and time again.
Some kids will not know anything has happened at all. Some kids will be steeped in news and news and news and conversation. I know our words together need to be mindful and supportive of both.
I know my kids will need time and space to sit, both in silence and in conversation. I know that I will start with questions. Sometimes I will have answers I can give in language short and clear and honest. Sometimes I will have to say, “I wish I only knew.”
And then? Sometimes that’s it. Sometimes a conversation of seventeen minutes or two hours is enough to bring us into a healthier space.
Sometimes it takes further action, development, thought, reflection.
Today I asked my fourth-grade students, home in each of their respective Zoom corners, to grab their social studies book and open it to a random historical event. I had kids read the events on the page they selected.
And then I said someday, in ten years or in twenty-five or fifty or one hundred, there will be a kid with a social studies book. And they will hold that book in their hands, just like you are holding this book in your hands. And they will read about the events that happened on January 6, 2021. And you! You are living through this. YOU are living this history. You are a person with a family and thoughts and feelings and hopes, and this history is happening to YOU.
And then I invited them to read, one more time, the historical event in their book. I said friends, as you read I want for you to think about the kid who was a kid when this was all happening. I want you to realize that there were PEOPLE at the time this history, people those events were happening to.
They read. They reflected and shared. As always, they were sincere, honest and insightful.
And I can only hope that each one of them will carry something from today forward, something wise or hopeful or helpful.
And I can also hope I won’t have another opportunity to get better at this.