Last Friday, when I opened my laptop to write this blog, I learned of the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I closed my laptop, cried, and prayed. I sought answers to questions that should never have to be asked knowing full well that I would never understand. Even though I spend considerable time convincing my students that words have power, I knew in this instance that words would fall short. This is supposed to be a blog of celebrations, but I could not, at that moment, find much to celebrate. The answer finally came to me yesterday in the hallways of an elementary school.
Several weeks ago, I scheduled my visit to Flint Springs Elementary School, and the principal and I agreed on the date of Monday, December 17th. At the time, I could never have fathomed what would occur the Friday before my visit, but I am grateful I was able to be at a school on this particular Monday. Being with children reminded me of the true value of the time we have together. We never know what tomorrow will bring, but each moment we spend with a child is precious. I hope that I, as a teacher, never forget that valuable lesson.
In my speeches, I often tell stories of mistakes I have made in hopes that others can learn from my downfalls. On one particular day, my principal walked in for my formal evaluation, and at that moment, I was so nervous about the evaluator standing in the back of my room, that I forgot to focus on the students sitting right there in front of me. I am ashamed when I describe that moment, but my honesty often resonates with others, and they, too, admit that it is easy to lose focus. When that happens, I know I am cheating my students out of my gift of time for them. Yesterday, I made an effort to really focus on the people I was seeing, not on the tasks I had to accomplish. Given the events of the last few days, I hope that is a lesson we will all remember.
As I continued to contemplate this gift of time yesterday, I, ironically, discovered a bulletin board that highlighted the importance of “Adequate Time.” While the board was referring to providing adequate time as a sound instructional practice, I wondered if we, as a nation, will give ourselves “adequate time.” Will we take the time to reflect, think, and process as the strategy suggests, or will we try to skip right to the organize and work stages? Before we begin discussing “solutions” to violence in our society, maybe we would do well to invest some of that energy reflecting on what we’ve learned.
Many teachers are looking forward to having a little extra time over the upcoming break. Might I suggest that we use that time to reflect, process, and think about what is most important to us, then invest our time wisely. Today, in the midst of mourning, I celebrate time and reflect on the gift of every precious moment.