By Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach

I have been reflecting on why I am (and so many educators I know are) so hard hit emotionally by what has happened in CT. I mentioned to a family member it feels like 9/11 to me. I am grief stricken. I’m turning on the TV often to feel connected to those suffering. Visibly depressed. Tearful. Angry.

I mean yes, it was 20 children. Who wouldn’t feel it? But children have died before and while I was saddened and shed a tear or two, the only other event covered by the news I have been this shaken up by was 9/11. Then I saw a tweet. And I knew why.

“Newtown was for teachers what 9/11 was for firefighters.” 

It is a secret truth between all of us who have been in the classroom that the kids come first (seriously come first –not just words). When in our schools/classrooms (especially in an elementary school) we are all on the front lines. And if anything goes down, we will fight for these kids to the point of death. We all know this — about ourselves and others — but this event has made educators everywhere look at that “truth” and question it. It has made us all pray — if our time comes (God forbid) — make us as brave as Sandy Hook’s educators.

Media is so quick to present educators as greedy, loud, and whiny when in reality most are selfless, steadfast, and strong. Why can’t media highlight the good that teachers do everyday? The selfless acts they carry out on behalf of the kids they serve? The sacrifices they make (often to the neglect of their own families) for the children in their care? Putting kids first is what teaching is all about. And leadership, too. This is what it means to be the caring administrator of a school full of precious children.

I grieve for those kids. I grieve for those educators. I grieve for their families. But I also grieve for our profession. And wish somewhere in the political finger pointing that will follow as we try to make sense of everything that has happened that someone will notice the educators and realize how valuable what they give each and every day is to the lives of children everywhere. You want to change a system in a way that will have lasting impact on society? Focus on meaningful school reform. Honor and cherish the work our future depends upon.

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5 Responses to ““Newtown was for teachers what 9/11 was for firefighters.””

  1. Mel Cashen December 18, 2012 at 11:13 pm #

    Hi Sheryl,

    Thank you so much for your post. You were able to put into words the things I had been thinking over the weekend.

    I made an effort to tell my friends who have kids at school to make an effort to see their teacher this week. Not to talk about test results, or how to improve their handwriting. But to thank them for the care they give students, how they put the safety and well being of each and everyone of them before their own.

    It is something so mant take for granted.

  2. Sean Thomas Moroney December 19, 2012 at 5:53 am #

    Hello Sheryl, thanks ever so much for your eloquence. What you’ve written is so true. This cuts us deep. Like firefighters and first responders whom have been in the thick of emergencies and so intimately know the experience we who’ve lived, worked and nurtured children in classrooms. Our empathy is born of direct personal experience -we can visualize ourselves being there with them at the tragic moments in a manner that others, though 100% sympathetic and moved may find difficult to do. Having invested so much of our lives in the same mission in similar places, a part of each of us was wounded and died at Sandy Hook School on that terrible day. So when we mourn them we mourn for ourselves, and likewise we we honor them we honor the sacrifices that educators willingly make for your young each day. We must own this and for their sake go on… It is our mandate to vindicate their deaths by making our society, country, and world better, safer, and more humane. We owe to them and ourselves. Let’s pick up the pieces and come together to fix our broken psyches… Thanks again for your insights and inspiration…

  3. Dean Shareski (@shareski) December 19, 2012 at 4:04 pm #

    An important message. Which reminds how odd it seems that when you ask parents about their child’s teacher, most will tell you how awesome they are and yet when they generalize about the profession, the sentiment isn’t the same. I don’t understand that.

    It seems that firefighters almost have the opposite issue. Some people who know firefighters look at the amount of time they have not fighting fires and suggest they have it easy, yet they would never suggest speak negatively about the profession. That may not be everyone’s perception but I’d argue that firefighters as a profession rarely gets publicly criticized since their primary purpose is saving lives from disaster. We might argue that teachers do the same but it’s rarely as obvious.

    Everyone says that in every profession you have a certain percentage of below average employees. I’ve argued that in education there would be a much lower rate than the average. It’s very difficult to spend hours a day with children and not care and work to become better. Yes, there are some but the vast majority of educators are caring, hard working professionals. Maybe Newtown will help more people understand that.

  4. Leslie Healey December 20, 2012 at 3:10 am #

    On Monday morning, a handmade sign appeared on the driveway up to my high school campus. It was painted on a sheet, just as all the birthday greetings that our kids send to each other are. But on Monday, the sign said “Hug your teacher.” I realized that yeah, my students knew what I would do if someone tried to hurt them. We are in it together, every day. And t would be nice if people outside the building knew, but it is not necessary.


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