In the moments before the news of the school shooting in Newtown, CT, wended its way through the halls of Crossroads Academy middle school, I was holed up in my office, grading writing assessments and listening to the fifth graders camped outside my office door, discussing, of all things, tape. They proclaimed their love for tape, their yearning for tape, and their parents’ attempts to hide said tape. They reminisced about the secret treasure hunts they had undertaken over the years in order to ferret out those contraband rolls of tape.
I poked my head out of my office, door, unable to resist.
“Why do you guys want all that tape?”
They looked up at me blankly, uncertain why anyone – particularly a teacher – would need an explanation as to why a kid would need tape.
The youngest boy looked up at me, and stated the obvious: “To hold stuff together.”
I remember that urge; to tighten the loose bits and pieces of my world with a screwdriver, glue, and yes, tape. I carried a screwdriver around my house, searching for loose screws, less than secure hinges, and light switch covers in danger of falling off of the wall. Sure, I stripped threads and over-cranked the hubs on my father’s bicycle, but everything was tight. Secure. A world screwed down was a world in control, and in it, I felt safe.
As teachers and administrators, we fool ourselves into believing that we are in any way prepared for what occurred today at Sandy Hook Elementary. We hold drills and de-brief. We practice lock downs, lock outs, fire drills and toxic spill evacuations. The alarm sounds and I leap up, calm my students, and lead them to our rendezvous point, where we await instructions from our Headmaster. We are reunited once again, whole. Safe.
But even as the country dutifully awaited its instructions from our leader, even President Obama acknowledged that our world has been hopelessly ripped asunder. “Because while nothing can fill the space of a lost child or loved one, all of us can extend a hand to those in need – to remind them that we are there for them, that we are praying for them, that the love they felt for those they lost endures not just in their memories but also in ours.”
Sandy Hook Elementary will never again be whole, or feel entirely safe. I imagine the gaping holes that now riddle their official class pictures, and I am forced to admit that I may not always be able to keep my students safe and complete. I can, however, re-stock my tape drawer, and teach them how to hold their world together as we move forward as a community.