Morning Message

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And just when I think
That things are in their place,
The heavens are secure,
The whole thing explodes in my face! — Amber Di Lena & Peter White, “Just Another Day”

Just another day, just another American tragedy to explain to my students.

But hey, the flag at school this morning is not at half-staff yet.  Did this really happen?  Of course it did.  The district hasn’t sent out a memo yet.  But given the amount of time already passed by the time I’ve arrived at school for the district to make such a decision,  am I wrong to think that some sort of mention needed to be made today?  My original plan was to review complex sentences to start the day.  Somehow, trying to explain the events in Boston yesterday were going to be even harder.  Deciding how to go about it would be equally as perplexing.

Nevertheless, when my principal asks me “how’s it going” as I arrive at school and head towards my classroom, I admit to him I’m tired of having to explain this stuff.  He just shakes his head in understanding.  There were so many things I could find that I could discuss with my kids to start the day.  It was Jackie Robinson Day yesterday, after all, and I would rather talk about that.  Or, it was Patriot’s Day in Boston, and after we’d already been discussing the beginnings of the American War for Independence at Lexington and Concord, it made sense to make note that this Friday was that historic anniversary.  Or, we could just talk about last night’s episode of the Voice…whatever.

Nah, a bomb goes off 3000 miles away.  3 are dead, for now, and one is a 3rd grader.  One more light goes out in America.  My job, as I figure it today, is that I get to ask my students if they had any questions.

That was how my day started.

I chose to become a teacher because of my desire to have to figure out ways of explaining complex stuff to youngsters.  But even after making such a decision, I always felt I could fall back upon, and rely on, established points of view for virtually-settled historic events.  In other words, explaining the events leading up to, and after, Paul Revere’s Ride should be easy enough.  Little did I know, at the time, what I would have in store when you consider things that have gone down since September of 1997…Newtown was only the last in a series of…well, until yesterday in Boston.

That reality was ultimately enough for me to swallow hard and ask my kids this morning if they had any questions.

What questions they had, surprisingly, were few.  Most already had enough of a sense of what went down yesterday that bringing up minute details would approach overkill and might cross some sort of line.  Nevertheless, the conversation wandered over to the definition of shrapnel.  And, for good measure, I reminded them of the significance of Patriot’s Day in Massachusetts.

(I chose not to go into the significance of Patriot’s Day elsewhere, and for other tragic reasons…)

Fundamentally, once we began to discuss it, I had to bring them back to reassure my students that they were safe, in addition to suggesting due diligence if they’re ever out and about and see a backpack or briefcase unattended for a chunk of time.   This wasn’t Newtown, I offered.  Of their reaction, I could tell already that they knew that.  Either they were bored, or now just inured to this sort of stuff.  The latter seemed more plausible.

Or, maybe not.  K., my class leader, for all her precociousness, got genuinely annoyed and raised her hand:

After this, do you think we’re finally going to start practicing lockdowns like we were promised?

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