Tales from an Elementary School Hallway

school hallwayFor the past few days,  I’ve been keeping a certain distance from emotionally engaging with what happened last Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary. Clearly, I’ve been plenty engaged with – and really pissed off about – various trending reactions to the tragedy, which you can easily see in my social media and blog history if you haven’t already. But as for the thing itself, I’ve buried it for the most part. I’ve hugged my kids a few extra times, but that’s about it.

This morning, though, I went to our local elementary school to help out with WildLion’s holiday party. The announcement sign outside the school currently reads “Our hearts and prayers are with Sandy Hook Elementary and the families in Newton, Connecticut”.

Now I’ll admit that the first thing my ample imagination did after reading that was to envision myself grabbing Mike Huckabee and all the other “God was absent because we’ve kicked him out of public school” asshats and shoving their faces into that sign and then punching them in their square white male Evangelical jaws. I don’t admit that proudly, but it is honest.

That immature hormonal rage lasted until the moment I crossed the threshold of the building.  Then, instantly, it shattered.

I went into the office and signed in as a parent volunteer, said “hi” to Lynne and Diane, the office managers, like I always have, with a smile on my face but a massive surge of – I dunno, vetigo, I guess – welling up inside my chest.

From the office I entered the main hallway of the school and headed toward WildLion’s second-grade classroom. It’s a relatively new building, well-maintained, with ample lighting and lots of things like kids’ art and spirit banners and stripes of school colors (royal blue and yellow) all over the walls. There is plenty of activity – kids with passes going to restrooms or to other classrooms, teachers and teaching assistants and school administrators & counselors walking around. From the open-doored classrooms, the sounds of children learning and teachers teaching and … life.

And that was the moment when my emotional failsafes all broke and my imagination kicked down the door of my fear and sadness and knocked the mask of the “angry progressive white male father” right off me, exposing the scared little boy fully capable of envisioning this bright idyllic middle-class scene full of learning and life becoming a hellscape of screams, gunshots, and chaos.

So much for keeping my emotional distance.

I cried. And I felt like throwing up. I actually had to divert into the nearest restroom. I’m not really sure an adult visitor is supposed to go into the boy’s restroom, but I did because otherwise I’m crying in the middle of an elementary school hallway. Thankfully, no kids were in there. (Which I think kinda proves that God is in fact very present in that particular public school).

So yeah, I cried it out in the boy’s bathroom. Then, after few minutes I pulled it together, left the restroom, and went to help my kid and his friends have a holiday party.

The rest of the morning went “normally” for the most part. Except for one thing that I felt I just had to do – I took WildLion’s teacher aside for a moment and told her that I am thankful for her. That I am grateful that she is spending her life teaching, caring for, and protecting my kid and all the other kids she devotes herself to every school day.

And when I left the party, I went up to Cartographer’s 5th-grade classroom, dropped off the teacher’s gift Leah had made and told his teacher the same thing. Then I saw Cartographer’s counselor in the hall and thanked her, too. And as I signed myself out in the office, I thanked Lynne and Diane and the assistant-principal who happened to be standing there.

And as I walked out past the sign I’d read earlier, I guess I felt a little better. Because yes, I *do* still wish I could shove Mike Huckabee and his ilk through that sign. But I can’t, and even if I could it’d be stupid, immature, and pointless (not to mention lowering myself to senseless violence). But what I CAN do is appreciate, support, and help the people who are educating and caring for our kids.

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