My fifth-grade students and I had recently discussed the vocabulary word “massacre.” We used it during a social studies lesson when discussing the treatment of Native Americans at the hands of the American government. We made distinctions between different deaths. Some deaths are the result of a natural disaster - a tsunami in Japan or an earthquake in Haiti. Some deaths are the result of terrorist acts - September 11 and the Twin Towers.
And now here’s the word “massacre” again. But this time it’s being used to describe a horrific nightmare that unfolded in a Connecticut school.
I can’t find the right words and can’t imagine the terror. I can’t read of the children without crying. I can’t look at my son without silently praying for him to remain safe. Ignorance is bliss; so they say. For the day these events unfolded, my son was happy at home. That fateful Friday, my fifth-grade students and I were decorating sugar cookies, distributing them to the hard-working members of our school community. I was trying to make our holiday celebration a time for thinking of, and doing for, others. In our safe haven of Room 7, my students were blissfully ignorant.
And eleven years ago, on a fateful September day, I helped my kindergarten students paint their hands while across the country towers crumbled.
Seems to me, it’s getting harder and harder to keep my kids (my son and my students) blissfully unaware. They are losing their safe places, because their world is being invaded by dastardly deeds.
And I all can do is keep teaching my kids (again, my son and my students) other vocabulary words like “respect,” “tolerance,” “appreciation,” “compassion” and “peace.”