Even when the Earth
Beneath their feet...
I passed the TV in the kitchen on my way out the door, late for an early morning appointment. One of the Twin Towers in NYC was aflame. A large explosion. No known cause. I paused. Clicked off the set. A part of me, most likely the mother part, shuddered. In the car, I listened. Nothing made sense. At the stoplights, I read over my notes. This was an important meeting. One of my students was having difficulty settling into her new classroom. This child who missed parts of sentences and always seemed a few beats too late in responding. A hearing loss can do that. Set one apart.
Our job this morning, minor measured tweaks, to make everyone a bit more comfortable. At ease. A tiny bit more patient. A bit better at listening. As well, a few strategies to help our young one learn to approach rather than to wait. To stretch her own muscles and to straighten her spine. To look people in the eye. To be brave. To try.
The meeting lasted about two hours. We were not to be disturbed.
When the meeting ended, we were not disturbed. We were shaken. The news filtered through in shattered pieces. One horrendous jolt after another.
I called my husband. His office emptied. Everyone sent home. His cell phone cradled against his shoulder on the drive home, trying to connect with our children.
I returned to my office.
A large TV by the lunch table. Images of destruction. Staff with red rimmed eyes circulating quietly through the cubicles. For all itinerants responsible for multiple buildings in the district, our day was only beginning. Our director told us, go and be where you are needed.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, school staff across this country started their day. For many, the day closed only when the last child left the building in the safekeeping of anxious parents or relatives. In the meantime, the staff stood firm. Calm. A sheltering presence. School. A refuge. Lessons taught. The comfort of rote and routine.
As I moved from classroom to classroom, school to school, I witnessed the same scenic view. Quiet halls. Secretaries with soothing voices gently moving children from their class to awaiting arms. Guardians of the peace for those remaining. From pre-school to high school, with staff and friends, there was a level of caring beyond anything I have known before and since. A look, a hand on a shoulder, the simple reassuring acts of doing what must be done. Recess duty, homework, loading backpacks...trivial tasks carried out behind fragile facades.
In one building, I heard a soft keening cry as it escaped, when an office door slowly closed. The towers had collapsed, and a teacher's brother fell into eternity. I watched her stand, wipe her eyes and return to her class.
She said, softly. There is work to be done.
Over the past decade, I have read and marveled at the heroism of so many on that fateful day. From giving up one's life so that another would be saved, to random acts so delicate and tender I ache to remember them even now so long ago and so far away. Firemen, police, mothers , fathers, strangers, neighbors...reaching out...pulling in...holding on...Setting the standard. Standing firm.
There was work to be done.
I may have missed it somewhere...somehow...the stories of the teachers...the school staff...who stood...and stayed...and watched over...your children and mine.
So, as we approach the anniversary of September 11th, 2001, I would like to dedicate this page to them. I, myself, am not sure if I was brave, or if I was just faking it until I could stretch my muscles and straighten my spine. I only know that the best way to teach is to set a good example.
How To Recognize A Good Teacher
Good teachers pull kleenex, band-aids, and colored markers out of their sleeves, and magic lesson plans out of their bulging canvas totes.
Good teachers, seasoned veterans, know after one week, the name of every student on their roster, which ones will fly of their own accord, and which ones require a temporary co-pilot.
Good teachers can repair anything with scotch tape, fix the copy machine with a swift kick and recognize trouble, when it is only an annoying itch.
Good teachers have only one class rule: Be Nice.
Good teachers know when to let you fly solo and do.
Good teachers are the result of another good teacher's teaching.
Chances are if you close your eyes, a good teacher will come to mind.
It might even be you.
On September 11th,
days before and days after,
a teacher treasured your child.