Moose River Farm Blog

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Thoughts from a Teacher


Good Evening,
       It’s been a busy week with Christmas vacation looming just ahead on the calendar.  This year promises to be a particularly happy celebration as Rod, (The Dream Maker), and I will be sharing it with Cindy and Haley, (Healing with Horses).  They are on their way to a new life here in the U.S. that includes plans to settle in North Carolina.  On their way from Australia they have chosen to spend Christmas in the Adirondacks at Moose River Farm.  For the first time in almost 8 years, we have a reason to decorate a twinkling tree in our living room.
         My excitement for Cindy’s and Haley’s visit has had to be contained while concentrating on general Christmas preparation, while getting to know my two donkeys, (Operation Donkey Drop), and while making a quick visit to my family in Philadelphia a week ago.  Last but not least, my professional life as a teacher; had to roll onward with lessons in math, reading and grammar despite the opposing energy radiating from a very excited group of youngsters. 
         And then the events of last Friday in NewtownCT began to unfold in the background of all my wonderful chaos.  A school with so many parallel similarities to the one that I teach in suffered an unimaginable sequence of events at the hands of one mentally ill human being.  In a matter of minutes the innocent lives of an entire school community was forever changed by the senseless act of one.  Our whole nation has been stunned, saddened and angered by this crime sparking discussions on gun control, mental illness, and grief.  It is all too much to bear and too much to comprehend as the collected evidence pieces together a possible motive.
        When I returned to school after the weekend, I entered my classroom from a whole new perspective about my chosen profession.  For 21 fifth graders I fully accept the role as their leader.  Not only am I responsible for preparing them for a battery of state tests in April, I am also responsible for their safety in my classroom.  To do so, I must make everyone comply with the classroom rules.  I am vigilant about bullying behavior and address it quickly when it emerges from time to time.  I push my students to challenge themselves through deep thinking and rigorous problem solving because I believe it is the path that will make them successful citizens who will contribute to the prosperity of our country when it is their turn to do so.  I don’t take this responsibility lightly.  Sometimes I fail.  However, I never stop trying and I go to great lengths to try new angles or techniques that might make a breakthrough because I truly care and am committed to these children. 
       But, as I surveyed my classroom, I wondered if I could possibly keep my students safe from a crazed gunman in the event that we came under attack.  How could I protect 21 precious children from a round of 30 flesh seeking bullets randomly ricocheting around my room?  Would my instincts kick in?  Would the children listen to my direction and heed my wishes?  My room is not a bunker.  It is a relatively small space efficiently arranged with tables and chairs.  The shelves along the back wall are packed with books.  Posters hang on the wall to remind students how our government branches are organized to control democracy.  Maps remind us of the big world that spreads out beyond Old Forge.  And an over-sized dictionary I refer to as ‘Old Wordy’ waits patiently for me to throw out the command, “Look it up”, when a student dares to ask: “What does this mean?”
       At home in the safety of my barn and while in the company of my beloved animals, I allowed my thoughts to explore possible solutions for my concerns.   So where can I safely hide my students out of harm’s way should the unthinkable interrupt their constitutional right to learn in a safe environment?  So many questions have haunted me this week as acceptable answers still remain out of reach for my peace of mind.  
      Teachers all over the world must be feeling the enormity of Sandy Hook’s heinous act and wondering what they would or will do if, God forbid, they find themselves face to face with such evil.  Among all the nebulous answers one thought continues to surface in my mind.  I want my students to know that I will do all that I can within my human power to keep them safe.  My mission will never wane from protecting their innocence, cultivating their right to learn and giving them 100 percent of my teaching ability.  For now, that is the best that I can offer until decisions are made, new protocols are in place and every effort has been made politically, locally and nationally to assure that this despicable crime will never happen again. 
        
      There is something spiritual for me that happens in the barn.  To have the love of these all-but-wild creatures, and to be accepted into the herd is a magical and indescribable feeling.  In some strange way they are my passage way to God.  from M.J. Arrison's book Getting My Goat; Seasons on a Small Bucks County Farm.



2 comments:

  1. Well said, Anne. I can't think of a more honorable profession, with such immeasurable responsibility. I would love to see a job description that adequately captures all that we teachers do, or in my case, did. What an appropriate passage at the end.

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  2. Beautifully said, Anne. One thing I have learned (most of the time)when Bridgette died in that accident is that there are some things we have no control over, no matter how careful we are. I know that was an accident and not some intentional assault. But even though safety is a priority in our barn, I couldn't control everything. It is the fear of not having control that is so frightening. It can paralyze us. I am so glad the country is beginning to come together to make some changes around gun violence and how to lessen it. I hope some positive changes come from it. But even if we have changes it won't be perfect. So, we need to be at peace in ourselves that we do the best we can and then beyond that we have no more control. This is not a defeatist attitude but a freeing one. It is what has made me be able to stay in the teaching and the horse business after Bridgette's death. It has taken me a long time to come to this place. It is not always perfect, but I try my best to not let my fears of "what if" control my life.

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