School Climate & Safety Opinion

‘Look for the Helpers’

By Anthony Cody — December 15, 2012 2 min read
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The atrocious details are coming through the fog of saturated news coverage. The teacher who ushered her students into closets before she was killed. The teacher who blocked a door with her body and was shot in the arm and leg through the closed door. The teacher who told her students that she loved them so that would be the last thing they were thinking about. The principal who ran towards the gun fire instead of to safety.

On this day we are reminded that classroom teachers, staff and administrators are on the front lines with our children every day. They are witnesses to the children’s growth and growing pains. They see the blossoming and the blight.

We are in a time of controlled chaos, it seems at times. As the last stanza from Dover Beach reads,

Ah, love, let us be true

To one another!
for the world, which seems

To lie before us like a land of dreams,

So various, so beautiful, so new,

Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,

Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;

And we are here as on a darkling plain

Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,

Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Look to helpers - that is the simple advice offered by a wise man:

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother's words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world.

So said Fred Rogers, one of our helpers now departed.

But as the educators of Sandy Hook demonstrated, our nation has millions of such helpers, people who have chosen to nurture and educate children as their careers. They take the chance that violence may come into their lives. They take the chance that they will encounter children with damage beyond their ability to reach. They take the chance that the trauma that inhabits the lives of so many of our children will find its way into their lives as well.

And we seem, as a society, to project our own flaws upon these hardy ones brave enough to take these chances. Cowardly ones among us accuse these people, who work to fight inequity, of being the very reason such inequities exist. We blame them, if the test scores do not rise, or if the students are not inspired by the scripted curriculum they are forced to recite. They are then “ineffective.”

We need one another in this world. We are the helpers Fred Rogers’ mother said we should look for when there is trouble. We are one another’s helpers as well, and we need to be there for each other. We need to be there with hugs and comfort, and with understanding that recognizes things sometimes just do not make sense at all.

What do you think? How are you finding sense in the face of tragedy?

Continue the dialogue with me on Twitter at @AnthonyCody

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