“Tuff”-ening Up to Start the Year

This morning, I contacted the editor I’ve been working with at The GuardianI accepted an assignment from her earlier in the week to write a piece about the Common Core. I’m over the moon that she thinks of me when education-related topics come up, and I hope it continues. My hope for this is so grand that, when I heard about Antoinette Tuff, the school clerk who stopped Tuesday’s would-be grade school shooting in Georgia using just her words, that they would be interested in a piece from me about this topic as a follow up to my no armed guards in school article.

They were interested. So interested, in fact, that they want an article from me on the topic by tomorrow morning.

HORRAY, right? So I came home from work and sat down to my computer. And wrote nothing. I called some friends, read some articles, and still wrote nothing. That was 4:00 PM. It is now 6:47. I still have nothing.

Here’s the thing, though. This isn’t plain old writer’s block. This isn’t even back to school exhaustion. This is a downright reaction to some serious stuff.

I haven’t written about this at all (even though I probably should have), but last year during our first Fearless Females meeting, we had a legit lockdown because a kid brought a gun to school. He shot at someone in the parking lot and missed, hitting the building. The bullet hole was still there when I walked into the building the next day. It was a classroom’s distance away from my room, where I was sitting with my girls.

That’s how I started last year. Then, in October, Tim had a lockdown as well. There was no shooter in his situation, but it was still incredibly stressful. Then, Sandy Hook. Then, the Boston Marathon.

It’s really  no wonder my stress level last year was higher than it ever has been. It was tough to leave my house, let alone go to school and then come home and watch Tim run.

So I sat down to write about Antoinette Tuff and I couldn’t. And the more I thought about it, the sadder I got until I started sniffling and crying over my keyboard. It was a mix of relief that no one in that Georgia school was hurt, fear that it could easily have gone the other way, and painful remembrance of how terrifying it was to sit, huddled under my desk, knowing only that this wasn’t a drill.

This year will be a better one than last. Tim and I joked during the last weeks of summer that if neither of us have a legitimate lockdown this year, the school year will already be leaps and bounds better than the last. I have to keep showing up and doing my job, and I’m so glad to be able to do so. I love my job, and my students this year are already hilariously brilliant.

That, in and of itself, should be enough, and for many teachers out there, it is. For me, I need more. I need to be able to write about these events, bringing to light some valuable insights about what it means to – quite literally, it seems – be in the trenches of the education system, both in curriculum development and in policy as it relates to safety and security. I will write about Antoinette Tuff, and I will get out of bed and go to school tomorrow. Both are equally important to me, even if they may be difficult to do.

Featured Image Credit: NPR – “Laterrica Luther holds the hand of her 6-year-old nephew, Jaden Culpepper, as students from the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy arrive on buses to waiting loved ones in a Walmart parking lot in Decatur, Ga., on Tuesday. A gunman had entered the students’ school earlier in the day. No one was hurt.”

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