Evil is powerful.
Human resilience is even more powerful.
That belief sustains me through difficult times.
And it is sustaining me now through this time of great sorrow in Newtown and far beyond.
Dennis Sparks offers his views on transforming teaching, learning, and relationships in schools
I have found myself thinking this morning about the tens of thousands of school leaders welcoming, comforting, and supporting their school communities as they return from a somber weekend of grieving and reflection after Friday’s unfathomable tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
My thoughts turned to a 92-year-old hospice patient with whom I had spent yesterday afternoon.
She told me that her life had taught her about the importance of celebration, noting that even a dreary afternoon, like the one we were peering out into, could be toasted with a glass of wine, which she happened to have near at hand as we spoke.
School leadership is about supporting the community as it grapples with difficult issues, like loss and sadness and fear. It is also about celebrating what the school community is and what it can be.
Such leadership requires listening deeply and compassionately to what is in the hearts and minds of community members.
It also requires focusing the community on the strengths it possesses and the resilience that has carried it through other challenging times.
I am confident that such conversations are occurring in schools across the country.
At such moments I am especially proud to be a part of the education profession.
In the wake of last Friday’s overwhelming tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut I stand in awe of and am deeply moved by the bravery and unflinching dedication of Principal Dawn Hochsprung and other educators in that school who gave their lives for their students.
Given the nature of the principals and teachers I have been privileged to know throughout my career, I am not surprised by their actions nor the ultimate price they paid for their dedication.
In the days ahead many others will undoubtedly find the most fitting words to describe them as human beings and as educators.
When I think of the losses to death in my own life I recall numbness, disbelief, and an altered reality from which I thought I would never awake. As I have sought to absorb the news accounts from Newtown I have found myself living in a similar altered state of consciousness from which I cannot escape.
Over the past few years as as a hospice volunteer I have led grief support groups for the spouses and partners, siblings and children, and other loved ones of hospice patients.
These grieving individuals learn that their feelings and reactions are shared by others and find support in community as live their lives one day or even one hour at a time.
They teach me and one another about compassion and love, the importance of mutual support, and the power of human resilience in the face of tragedies that they often cannot find words to express.
The school community of Sandy Hook will undoubtedly teach us those lessons and others as we send it our prayers and observe it from afar in the days and weeks ahead.