My friend and colleague, Stu Gothold, gave me permission to share his reflection following the massacre in Newtown. The teachers and administrators all practiced Sacred Leadership that day. They understood the deep purpose of educating, nurturing and protecting their young charges and they served that purpose even though for many it meant giving their lives.
An Urgent Reflection
Please forgive me – I must speak out on the horrible events of Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown…
I have been a teacher, now entering my 60th year. Over 33 of those years were in school administration, but I have never not been a teacher. My heart is broken over the loss of life of 20 beautiful children, and the 6 adults who cared for them. I teach my doctoral students the power of reflection, and urge them to attach actions to their reflections, to make sense of complex issues and events. I cannot but do the same regarding Newton.
Schools are places where young minds are nurtured and cared for, where individual expression is unleashed and celebrated. The courage and caring of Newtown’s teachers reached its apex Friday as teachers placed their own safety below that of the children in their care. They did everything they could to protect the sanctity and innocence of childhood. They are truly the saints of our profession, and I can’t stop thinking about them.
These tragic events has renewed the conversation about gun control. I plead that this conversation not be about what can be done to make schools fortresses against violence of any type. We are experiencing a societal problem, not a school problem. As citizens, we have a responsibility for protecting the psychological, as well as the physical well-being of our citizens, no matter what age. Years ago, the LA County Board of Supervisors considered a proposal to require schools to determine whether children (and their families) were here legally or illegally. I adamantly opposed this policy – it would have destroyed the delicate relationship between our neighborhood schools and the families who were seeking the best education for their children. To their credit, the Supervisors abandoned the issue.
However, these issues remain, and need attention. Our schools need protection…protection from forces which prevent them from accomplishing their primary mission – that of nurturing healthy, thinking and caring citizens who will lead productive lives.
Listen to what is being said about the teachers and children of Newtown…the children were bright, caring, creative and happy; their teachers were dedicated, courageous, generous with their time talent, and resources, and active in their community. No one mentioned that the children scored well on tests, or the school was “above average”…they were valued for their personal qualities, cultivated by enriched curriculum, creative lessons, the arts and concern for others.
These are the rights of children that must be protected from outsiders bent on destruction! Schools should not be asked to divert scarce resources to build walls, security systems and hire guards for physical protection. Communities have the same needs…schools need current resources, and more, to ensure that every child is noticed and attended to, especially the “quiet, under the radar” student who has not received the opportunity to join a community of positive learners, and who needs psychological protection. This is the power of a teacher – to inspire, to motivate and to lead…not to stand guard against the environment.
There – I’ve said it the best I can…God Didn’t Make No Junk…We all need to do a better job of supporting the most important and underappreciated profession in our society – God Bless our Teachers.
Stuart E. Gothold