Schools exist for children. It is difficult enough to create environments in which five year olds can enter and feel welcomed and safe, where they can become excited learners. We do it in all of our schools . We create safe environments in which students can do the hard work of learning while growing up. It begins when a five year old first begins Kindergarten, they enter a large unfamiliar building, without parents, filled with students older and bigger than they are. It has new people, new sounds, and smells that are foreign to them. They are ushered down long hallways and finally arrive in the room in which they will spend 10 months learning, next to children they probably never met before, from a teacher who will become their touchstone for the next 10 months. Then a room change happens during the day. They are taken to art, music, gym, or library, or lunch in which another teacher leads them for less than an hour and then the class is led back to the main learning room to return to their touchstone teacher. All the while, the child is unaware of what is expected by her parents, and the rest of us - those teachers never take their eyes off of them, watch them, and are sure to keep them safe.
Teachers are the educators who work the closest with our children. It is they who continue to act as touchstones for our students. Now finally, after Newtown, Connecticut and Moore, Oklahoma, we hear the public talking about teachers as heroes. It has been a long time coming. Both tragedies put a spotlight on the extremes that a teacher will go to protect their students. That is fundamental. It is at their core. Keep the children safe. We acknowledge and applaud them for lifting the daily work in a crisis so that others can see a piece of who they are and what they will do. In those moments when they act with courage to protect the children, they are revealing a capacity for leadership. It is a courageous moment and it is a leadership moment.