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To my fallen colleagues,
I heard your stories today on the radio, on my way to school. I heard what you did to protect your students. I learned about your last act of bravery, of love, of kindness. The profound impact of your actions stays with me today, and will always.
As I walk around my school, I see my fellow teachers with new eyes. See, I always knew they lived and taught with love, kindness, compassion, and knowledge. But as I looked at them today, I saw you.
I saw what you did in all of them.
The quiet bravery. The willingness to stand up for children, be it in meetings, conversations, reports or calling out for support. It is in each of them. Then to your extreme last act of love, of selflessness. I see this too, deep behind their eyes. I know they would do the same thing. My colleagues, they would act as you did.
You showed America the heart and soul of teachers. This undervalued, underpaid, often criticized much maligned profession called teaching.
As more and more people tell us we aren’t good enough, we aren’t doing enough, our educational system is failing, I see my colleagues working through lunch breaks. Researching into the night. Calling parents, meeting with students, and trying everything they can do to make their students successful, happy and engaged.
I see teachers working tirelessly each day to not only teach math, literacy, writing, grammar, spelling, science and social studies but also kindness, empathy, bravery, civic engagement and perspective taking.
They work against a sea of bad press, violent media, corporations looking to market childhood, and crumbling family responsibilities.
I feel the loss of you in our army for good. In our army for children. But we will march on in your absence. We will see each other with new eyes. Maybe people will see us differently now too. Maybe they will treat us with the respect of someone who can save lives. Or die trying.
And I hope this will change the world. More humanity for teachers and for children. More childhood in childhood. More love, kindness, empathy, knowledge, compassion, and acts of true bravery.
Maybe now our politicians will have the courage to act in ways that will keep more children safe. If they use half of the bravery you showed on December 14, 2012, they should be just fine.
We will miss you and your daily work with children. Thousands of us will carry you in our hearts each day, especially when we act bravely to stand up for kids, to demand help, and to force change when the bureaucracy seems to not budge.
It is in your honor that we do so.