Newtown, A Year Later

Just the thought of Newtown makes me weep. I cry for the babies who were taken from their families on what should have been an ordinary school Friday with the excitement of a week’s vacation looming in the future. My heart breaks for the families, for the adults who tried so valiantly to keep those children safe and, despite Herculean efforts were unable to do so.

Because of Newtown, we have practiced newly revised procedures for the what-ifs. In my own classroom, I’ve thought and re-thought. What could I do to protect my own students should such an unfathomable tragedy visit my school, my classroom.

It angers me whenever I hear some talking head spout off that teachers “should be armed”. I  don’t own nor have I ever had interest in having a gun for one very personal reason; I have no intention of shooting another human.  Period. Weapons belong in the hands of those who are trained to use them. They belong to those who know the consequences of firing a weapon – not the sanitized version of violence that is presented for “entertainment”.

Just 364 days after Newtown, yet another gun in yet another school. Where and when will this end?

I wish I knew the answer. I wish I could promise my students that we would never again be weeping over families torn apart by senseless violence.

UPDATE 12/19/2013

In an act of brazenness, there was a shooting about 15 minutes after dismissal directly across the street from my school this week. As part of protocol, the school went into a hard lockdown.

Rumors fly, of course, but the truth of the situation was that most students had been dismissed (all buses had left) and the students who were still in the building were either late pick-ups or with the after school program. There were still staff in the building; I had just left the parking lot and, through a stroke of luck ended up on Lincoln Street driving away from the violence.  Some of my colleagues, however, were not so lucky and are naturally quite shaken.

The brazen aspect of this shooting is that it seems to have been some unconnected (to the school) violence taking place in close proximity to a school in the middle of the day. And that the alleged shooter did what he did in full view of many people.

While cautious and aware that violence can rear up at any time, I do not feel fearful walking around this neighborhood. My own affluent surburban neighborhood has also experienced gun violence in recent memory.

No one, no place is immune.

News article from Lowell Sun here


The Joy of Learning

In another life, I was a classically trained pianist.  I loved the challenge of performing Bach or Scarlatti or nearly any other Baroque composers.

So yesterday when I was searching for something new to listen to – my playing days are now well behind me – I discovered a version of Couperin’s Les Barricades mysterieuses. The precision, the beauty of the melodic lines, the mathematics of the composition fascinated me, particularly because the version I was listening to was not on a harpsichord, but on a classical guitar.

Benjamin Verdery talks in the clip below of discovering the joy of performing such pieces on guitar, of the slow, methodical process needed to coax his fingers produce the notes and how he practiced and practiced and practiced until one day, he could perform the piece as you hear it. The satisfaction of that effort, as is often the case when presented with a learning challenge, stayed with him.

For me, the message is not found simply in the music. The message is that anything worth doing well takes perseverance. And that, my friends is the joy of learning.