That’s Tammy Glasgow and some of her 2nd graders. At Briarwood Elementary School in Moore, OK, she told the kids she loved them as she shut the doors to the closets where they were hiding from the storm. Moments later, the Briarwood building was no longer. All of the students at Briarwood survived, praise God.
This entire weekend, I’ve been thinking about my class. Feeling all the “big feelings” that come with the end of the school year. Mostly, I felt disappointment for what I couldn’t do, what I didn’t do well enough, what I would do better if I could go back. I need to be lesson planner, assessment giver, diagnostician, interventionist, brain specialist, motivator, band-aid distributor, therapist, housekeeper, conflict resolver…not to mention award-winning actress on days when I don’t want to do this. There are a lot of pieces to hold together in the classroom. Teaching is no place for a perfectionist unless you can handle all the big feelings.
I was feeling guilty because I don’t feel as attached to this class as I usually do. I usually (reluctantly!) miss the kids over breaks and long weekends, even as I’m relieved to have the break. This year…I don’t feel that way. It’s been a hard year, and in hindsight, I can see clearly what parts were my fault, what I could have prevented or fixed. What I could have done to lead my feelings in another direction, to feel more attached. To foster an environment where they feel more attached to each other. Maybe.
And the big feelings say, I am a horrible person for not loving them enough.
But then I saw this picture. I don’t know what Ms. Glasgow was really feeling in those moments, walking out of the rubble with her kids. But I see, as many other teachers probably do, myself and my kids in that picture. There is not a single child in my class who I would not want right next to me during a storm, so I could put my arms around them and hold their hands and comfort their fear and protect them. There is not a single child who I could shut into a closet during a storm without it breaking my heart, the fear that they would not be okay.
There is not a single child to whom I would not say, “I love you,” because I do love them enough that I think “I love you” should be the last thing they hear before those terrifying moments. And I know, for sure and certain, that’s exactly what I would have said to them in a storm.
We did not survive a tornado this year. We did not survive a school shooting. We simply lived through a run-of-the-mill difficult year. And I also know, for sure and certain, that I did everything I could for them. I did my very best with the knowledge and resources I had, because if I could have done better, I would have. My perfectionism and “big feelings” might say differently, but that’s a truth I can hold onto.
“We see their smiles, we see their tears, every day, in and out. We love them and they’re our babies.” –Suzanne Haley, teacher