Like the rest of the nation, I was shocked and saddened by the horrific events in Newtown that took the lives of 20 innocent children.
What did not surprise me were the actions of the teachers and school personnel who died trying to protect them. We have all heard the stories by now — the principal and school psychologist running into gunfire in an effort to disarm the lunatic who invaded their school, the teachers who died protecting their students, and the students who did not die because of the quick thinking and bravery of their teachers.
Of all the adjective others would use to describe me, brave is not on the list. However, as a teacher, I am certain I would have done the same as the teachers did in Newtown. I’m not saying this because there is anything special about me, quite the contrary.
While there is training on lock-down procedures for various threats, there is certainly no in-service training on what to do if you come face-to-face with a gun-wielding mass murderer. But if evil presented itself on his or her watch as it did at Sandy Hook Elementary School, your child’s teacher — who does funny voices at storytime, sings songs about fractions and patiently listens to schoolyard injustices — will not hesitate to try whatever is necessary to take them down.
As my friend, former colleague, and first-grade teacher Barb Johnson, who teaches at Poe Elementary School in Arlington Heights, explains so eloquently on her Facebook page:
Heart break ... shock ... numbness; I felt all of these emotions upon hearing of the shootings at Sandy Hook. I am now feeling pride upon hearing of the stories slowly emerging from the teachers of the school. Pride in how the teachers handled the situation, pride in how they calmly talked to their students. Pride in how many lives were saved because of bravery and love for their students. I have always been proud to be a teacher, but never more than today. I am a first grade teacher and would have done the exact same thing Victoria Soto did. Victoria, you are my hero. Not only for myself, but for all teachers around the world. You hid your first graders in the closets and bathroom and took the bullet for your class to keep them safe. ... I have not spoken to a teacher since this horrible tragedy that would not have done the same. Thank you teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary for showing the world who we really are and that we would die for our students if we had to. Maybe all the teacher-bashing by newspapers and journalists will end when they stop and ask themselves the question ... ’Would I take a bullet for my job?’
I spent a portion of my day on Monday talking with teachers at the elementary school near my house and as expected, they are shaken to the core. They realize Sandy Hook Elementary School could have been their school and the teachers whose lives were taken could very well have been their own. I’m not sure what I expected to see at this school, but by and large, it was business as usual. As fourth-grade teacher Dahlia Cherney told me, “The kids just want normalcy, and because of our students, the teachers were able to cope better.”
Another teacher mentioned all the emails she received from parents expressing their appreciation for her dedication. It’s a start.