On Friday, we went to work, our students came to school, and at the end of the day we all went home. In Newtown, Connecticut, 28 people – including 20 precious six and seven year olds – did not go home at the end of the day.

Elementary schools are full of indoor shoes and backpacks, bandaids and books, laughter and learning. On Friday, Sandy Hook Elementary School was taken over by handguns, horror and unimaginable chaos.

As more details are released, my emotions move in and out of sadness, anger, anguish, pain and devastation – despite the fact that I did not know the children or adults who died, nor the ones who survived this tragedy. My own emotions so raw, I simply cannot imagine the heightened, intense emotions of that community. I cannot imagine the terror and confusion for those six year olds in the last moments of their lives. I cannot imagine how the school staff will move forward from this real-life nightmare. I cannot imagine how the students who survived will ever feel safe in a school again or how they will ever recover from inevitable anguish and grief. I cannot imagine how these families will celebrate Christmas, this year or for years to come.

My thoughts move to the perpetrator of these crimes: What drove this 20 year old to something so horrific? What did he face in his own young life that made taking two handguns and a rifle to an elementary school the answer to his problems? After all, he was once a kindergarten student, too.

I have more questions than answers… How do we reconcile the increasing prevalence of guns in our society? How do we reach out to individuals to ensure a mass killing isn’t the solution to any predicament? How do we communicate our condolences to the families involved? How do we ensure these tiny victims are not lost without purpose? How do we bring meaning to this tragedy?

The answers will take thought, work, time and creativity. Ultimately, the answers may elude us.

What I do know… I will be thankful for each day of safety within our school, I will continue to be grateful to live in Canada, I will pray for healing in a community I had not even heard of until Friday and I will hug my loved ones a little tighter and a lot longer than usual.



Simply a draft…

When I think back to my first year of teaching, I cringe. I probably wasn’t a horrible teacher but I certainly was young and in survival mode. I compare my first year of teaching to a first draft of my writing: the content is tentative, the ideas formulating and the art and craft not yet developed.

During each year of teaching I further explore my pedagogy, discover new tricks and become more imaginative: ultimately, I refine the subtleties and nuances of my work. When I move from draft to draft in my writing, I hone my ideas, reorganize my thoughts, insert a little creativity and strive to perfect my wording. The changes I make are sometimes subtle, sometimes drastic.

My teaching and writing are both challenged and stretched by the ideas I read. My teaching and writing are both affected greatly by the students I encounter each day. Both are a work in progress and most certainly improve with innovation and reflection.

As a friend said to me recently, a writer is never truly finished a piece of writing: there is alway more to add, delete, fiddle with and finagle. Hopefully, this is also true for our teaching. Good teachers are never truly finished learning and improving their craft… for that is certainly what good teaching is.


The reaches of technology

It can be difficult to keep up with the ever-changing technology. It can also be difficult to determine what will stay and what will go. Consider QR codes… you know those black and white squares just waiting to be scanned, taking you to further information or advertising. The QR code has entered a new realm: death. That’s right. QR codes have found their way onto gravestones allowing family members, friends or strangers even, to scan the code and link to information about the deceased.

The idea intrigues me. Now as you may or may not know, my family was in the business of gravestones. My maternal grandparents, my father and my uncle all spent many years assisting families through the difficult time surrounding death. I can’t help wonder what they would say or how they would feel about this addition to gravestones. I suppose it’s not for everyone. And yet, I like the idea of someone stumbling upon my father’s gravestone and a QR code allowing him to learn more about my father’s life: his story.

This idea proves that we just cannot predict where technology will take us in the future. My dad, who died 11 years ago, could certainly never have imagined this possibility. Yet I think he would approve.

I have walked through many cemeteries throughout the world. I’ve always found them to be somewhat comforting: the rows and rows of history, the strength and endurance of the granite and the gentle reminder of our human frailty. Maybe next time, I’ll take along my smartphone…