From a TeacherI am a teacher. It is an ambitious career, one filled with tears and sweat and eurekas. It is composed of long hours, early mornings, and sore muscles. It is a dream job, but it is maddeningly nightmarish.
I began my career with a thought. My mother is a teacher, has been for a long time, and I would watch her sit and plan lessons in the dining room on cool Wednesday afternoons (though by the time I was old enough to comprehend what she was doing, she already had enough lessons backlogged that she didn't really need to plan any more). I always thought to myself that her job would remain hers. I didn't want to become a teacher for the simple fact that my mother was one.
But, that changed. I worked at Starbucks for a number of years equal to the number of years that it has sucked from my life. I was headed nowhere with no sense of direction and no sense of mission. I got to serve coffee to people. Yippee! Whereas I could impact one person for maybe four hours, I still felt like sloshing lattes was not where I wanted to be in life.
My mother talked me into working as a Substitute Teacher as I was nearing the end of my rope at Starbucks. I took the bait.
My first class, elementary music, one of the kids, Zechariah, clung to my shin the entire time. He was precious, and I finally saw what it was that kept my mother waking up at all hours of the night and preoccupying her thoughts during the day. There is a certain amount of vulnerability that comes through the school doors every day. There is a certain amount of uncertainty. A child will look to you with the same eyes he or she sees the world. As a teacher, it is our responsibility to these children, to make sure that when they step off the graduation stage, they are ready to take those steps.
So, when I read about the recent goings on in Connecticut, I am troubled. I am troubled to my core not because the man responsible carried a gun onto a closed campus, not because he was on medications, not because he was mentally unstable, but because children are without fault.
The innocence of children cannot be overstated. They wake up, some more readily than others, and some in worse situations, but they look out their windows and doors and see the world as we're meant to: with admiration. It's a big, scary world out there and they know it. They know it before the self-doubt and loathing seeps into their minds. And the best part about it is they don't care. They are able to stare down adversity and triumph.
This little kid, Zechariah, was the one who convinced me of this. He saw something encouraging, new, and he clung to it. He wouldn't let go. The innocence of children cannot be understated.
Recently, we have been met with a situation that has tried the hearts of the nation. We have surrendered our prejudices, if only for a moment, in recognition that the worst of humanity still walks among us. No matter how principled, humbled, enlightened we claim we are, there is still a sliver of animal that haunts us, driving us to blood, driving us to the edge of reality.
Who's to say that it doesn't exist in all of us?
The difference is the will to act. Do the rest of us, the 99.999%, feel the tingle but do nothing about it, ignoring it like an itch? Have we retained the blind sense of wonder that we thought left us when we started asking more questions than accepting?
It seems as though the people who routinely commit violations live outside society-regulated norms.