Our Mission after Sandy Hook

A MiddleWeb Blog



With our love and support for the Sandy Hook community — we all come together. With sadness, admiration, and inspiration because of the Sandy Hook teachers, principal, psychologist, and faculty — Laurie and I dedicate this blog post to honor and celebrate teachers everywhere.

We must begin to transform our intense grief and anger into strong resolve. We are thankful to be teachers. We are humbled by the responsibility to show our students, every day — in every situation — just how much they mean to us.

Living our mission

So although we mourn with an overwhelming sense of sadness that just won’t ease up, we must stay strong and continue to live our mission. We must continue the mission that those brave Sandy Hook teachers and faculty lived. This mission to let our students know just how much they are cared for — how much we care for them — and how much they are loved.

So, we thank, we mourn, and we become inspired by the teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary who never faltered, who remained focused in an unspeakably horrific situation, who stayed true to why they became teachers, who put their students’ well-being above all, who let their students know just how very much they were loved.

We will always remember them. And now we regroup — we gain strength — and we continue with our mission.

At this holiday season, it’s difficult, near impossible, to feel the joy that this season is supposed to bring. Yet, let’s come together to try to comfort one another. This post will be all about how we show our students we care. So, please…as a tribute to our Sandy Hook colleagues and their broken-hearted community — join us in sharing our love for students. We are teachers. We are such a dedicated connected community. I’ll start the list…

How I show my students I care:

I smile often. No matter how I’m feeling I smile at them and with them.

I am serious about having high expectations for each of them, and I am silly when I know they need to balance out the fast pace of the schedule, the assignments, and the curriculum.

I encourage — not just praise. I give specific feedback, so they know what they are doing well, and what they need to strengthen in order to be more responsible in their learning process.

I listen to what they have to say — I do not do all of the talking. I value their ideas and they know it.

I show them I value their thinking by asking them questions and by commenting on their ideas.

I support their learning, but I let them fail if I have to — just so they can reach that point where they are driven to achieve. That is the point where they own their learning. And then I’m right there to cradle their efforts and structure their independent steps toward reaching their personal best.

I guide them to take ownership for their learning, so they feel that boost in their self-esteem and that passion that can lead to independent life-long learning.

I ask them how they are feeling, and then I really listen to what they say. I also listen to what they don’t say, and then I guide them to solve problems and celebrate their personal successes.

When they share their personal feelings with me, I validate their feelings, and then I support them.

I leave them little notes of encouragement on a post-it on their desk, or in their notebooks. A simple note like: “I notice you are having a great day!” Or “Great job writing in complete sentences!” Or, “You must be so proud of yourself; you raised your hand twice today — I am proud of you, too!”

I just tell them. Very directly. Very honestly. Very enthusiastically. And very often. I tell them just how very much they mean to me.

Happy holidays, everyone…in strength…

Elizabeth Stein

Elizabeth Stein has more than 20 years teaching experience spanning grades K-8, specializing in universal design for learning and special education. She’s currently a special education/UDL instructional coach and new-teacher mentor in Long Island NY’s Smithtown Central School District. Elizabeth is National Board Certified in Literacy, and a contributor to Education Week and other publications. Her books include Comprehension Lessons for RTI (Grades 3-5) (Scholastic, 2013), Elevating Co-Teaching Through UDL (CAST, 2016) and Two Teachers in the Room: Strategies for Co-Teaching Success (Routledge, 2017). Follow her on Twitter @elizabethlstein and #coteachat

5 Responses

  1. Laurie Wasserman says:

    You have written such a touching piece, and given us a way to deal with our overwhelming sense of sadness this past week. The steps and ideas you have shared are so important for us to utilize as teachers; giving us a plan for 2013.

    As I reflect on the past week, I think about our students who were more “clingy and needy” as one of my teaching partners observed. There are a group of young ladies that wait for me each morning, wanting to hang out in our classroom before the bell rings. They join me as I eat my breakfast. But most of the time, I’m the only one eating, as they chat, share feelings, and sometimes worries/concerns.
    There are times I feel conflicted between being their teacher and feeling like their mom. Your thoughtful advice gives us the validation and guidance that it’s okay and very necessary as teachers to show our students how much we love and care about them.

  2. Elizabeth Stein says:

    Thanks for adding your story to the list, Laurie.
    We all want to do something to support the Newtown community, and nothing we do will ever seem like enough. I hope as we keep this mission in mind, it will serve as a collaborative powerful force felt near and far. The mindset to: Love first, then teach, and always remember them–is something that can empower us all.

  3. J Car Doza says:

    Laurie, I completely agree with you. I have the same group of kids in front of my door every morning. I eat and they chat. They come back at lunch too. I definitely feel like a Mom during these periods……listening to them vent about school, home and friends. This piece makes me feel like it’s okay to listen and be the “Mom” away from home that some children need.

  4. J Car Doza says:

    I love this Elizabeth. I have had such a difficult week dealing with the nightmare that occurred in Sandy Hook. My students know how I feel about them but your blog really put it into perspective for me. Thank you!

  5. J Car Doza,
    your students are lucky to have you as their “Mom away from home” who they can vent to and who listens. Thank-you for your comments. Happy New Year to you and your students.

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