Yesterday, as news broke of the incomprehensible shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Connecticut, it was as if the air was sucked out of so many at our school. Even now I struggle to put words on the page as I continue to feel disbelief and shock. How does one handle such disturbing news?
While the instances of previous mass shootings in schools have hit us with significant impact, it is the killing of so many young, innocent children and their teachers that strikes even more deeply. I am not sure it is fair to compare such events but certainly, for those of us who work in schools and spend time with children of the same age as those killed yesterday — it is hard not to ask ourselves why anyone would do this and what we can be doing, if anything, to prevent such tragedies.
As I spoke with my brother last evening — a first-time father who loves his 9-month-old son more that he thought possible — we talked about how he and his wife want to ensure that as parents they are not creating a bubble for their son. They want to ensure that they are not overly protective and that they understand the need for guidance without smothering. However, we also spoke of how one protects children from events such as yesterday’s, which are so heinous and so unfathomable. How do you ensure that you bring up children to believe that there is good in everyone and that life is a joyful, hopeful time to learn and grow?
In the context of St. Clement’s School we find that as educators we are often guiding parents to hold back a bit and let their daughters stumble, as they learn, as it is failure, along with students’ curiosity, that allow for growth and learning. We believe this is fundamental, and an important message, particularly in the context of education.
However, I know that after yesterday’s events, we have all paused. Not because our beliefs have changed, but because events such as these are simply unfathomable and force us to reflect. While we do insist that our girls not be coddled, things in society have changed, and I find myself struggling with how to confidently suggest that our young girls will always be able to deal with uncertainty, or, in this case, the unimaginable. How can we when we ourselves are at a loss at this time?
As a school we can assure parents and our girls that our protocols for situations such as intruders and crisis situations are in place. We will certainly be accessible to our students to allow for questions over the coming days, endeavouring to assist them in sorting through the onslaught of media. I do not believe, however, that it is up to us as a school to tell our parents how to discuss and handle this with their own children, as this is a deeply disturbing and yet personal event.
What I will say is hug your daughters and sons, your partners, siblings and parents; listen to them and tell them that you love them and finally, live each day to the fullest. Sadly, we were reminded yesterday that life can be taken away too quickly, and we are not always able to control its timing.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Sandy Hook Community at this time.
I have attached information from our LINCWell Centre that provides LINCWell Support for Grieving Children in a School Setting