I don't know how many kids I've had, but the number is well over 500. I've forgotten most of their names, but that's ok, because they've grown up and probably forgotten about me completely. Still, there was a time when I spent sleepless nights worrying about them, because they were my kids. Teachers don't have students per se; we have kids. It sounds simple, but we love them.
Here is one thing that my children's teachers do every month that neither I -- nor any other parent -- have done for my own: lead them through an emergency evacuation drill to escape a potential shooter. It usually begins with a cryptic statement over the loudspeaker, like "code blue," and ends somewhere off-campus. At the high school where I once taught, the staff and student body were assigned multiple locations that lined blocks spiraling away from the building. I suppose it made us all a harder target.
I remember the first time I led this drill, mainly because my juniors remained silent the entire time, and let's face it, that isn't exactly common. Then again, this was not long after September 11th, and the town had lost dozens that day. Maybe my kids understood that we were practicing for something evil.
I also remember not sleeping that night. I was scared of my room's location near the front entrance, right across from the main office. I thought about the furniture I would push in front of the door. Yes, that three-tiered metal file cabinet was well-placed. Remember to turn off the lights. Could we fit through the tilting windows to escape into the courtyard? Would we be safer there? Maybe not...
Lots of parents are worried about sending their children to public school this week, but I am not among them. This is not because I think my school's lockdown, intruder and shooter drills are more effective that yours, or my community is any safer. These many tragedies, like the one in Newtown, do not have sense enough for boundaries. I believe our children are safe because when they are at school, they are someone else's kid, too. There is someone there who hasn't slept in three days because twenty children were murdered on Friday. She or he is rearranging the classroom furniture, checking that the locks work and preparing to save your child. That teacher loves your child. And if Sandy Hook must prove something, it is that a teacher will give her life for your child.
After all, they are her kids, too.