Newtown, CT has suffered an incomprehensible tragedy. At least 27 people dead, 20 of them children. It is during tragedies like these, whether it be Aurora, CO; Oregon; or Columbine that we tend to have more questions than answers. Most often they are why and what can I do?
If you happen to know the victims and / or their families, the one thing you can do is to support them. I remember, a few years ago, one of my student's step-father was killed in the Manchester, CT shooting. As his teacher all I could do was be there as a support system for him and his family.
Most likely, you don't know any of the victims but feel compelled to do something. There is much we cando.
We need to be there for our students. Their age will determine what we tell them. Not to mention what we know about them. Hypersensitive kiddos (I was one) can not handle too much information. It will make them physically ill with worry. Less is more and reassuring them about the unlikeliness of instances like these is important. We should be honest, but only provide them with necessary information. Acknowledge their feelings...this is so important. Children will be scared. They just want to know that we hear them and reassurance that everything will be alright.
It's also important to ensure that our 'in the moment' reactions don't cause more distress. I know many schools had a police presence after yesterday's slaughter. On the one hand I can understand that this could have been because there was fear that there would be copycat incidents. But, was an increased police presence more about reassuring adults that schools were safe? Children require their routine to maintain the same in times of tragedy. Let's provide that for them.
Whether or not we can reassure them, we need to begin acting in a way that will provide them with reassurance. We need to live in a way that demonstrates what it means to be kind and empathetic to others. It may sound trivial, but is incredibly important. How we act today determines how our students conduct themselves tomorrow. This includes having and displaying empathy for the family members of the deceased shooter.
If there is a way to prevent tragedies like these, I'm unsure. But I have to believe that there are things we can do to at least try. We can continue to build strong communities in our classrooms where every child is known and valued. We ensure that kindness is the expectation. Every child has an adult they can connect with in the school. We push harder to get support and services for those children who we need it; regardless of socio-economics, special education labels, or tenure.