Since I taught in 5 school districts in my career, I know how lucky I was to have spent 9 years teaching video production at Newtown High School. I believe the parents, teachers and town leaders have made the difference in turning out respectful, intelligent and adventurous children. Nowhere else have I seen the caring and cooperation of making every production a success. Whether it was an art show, a football game or an in-class debate, win or lose, the students were encouraged in their achievements at any level.
In other towns I've taught in, I've spent the entire two hours of Parents' Night doing paperwork because no parents came around. It's not that way in Newtown. Every year, twice a year on Parents' Night, every parking lot at every school was overflowing. If you didn't remember to park at the end of the driveway, you were stuck in traffic for an extra hour after the event ended. That's how many parents cared to visit their children's teachers and find out how their child was getting along.
District faculty meetings were typically businesslike until the teachers took control and we got to experience each others expertise. I learned how to teach math with M&Ms, how to find what was hidden in a lump of clay, how to prompt kids to read and write. And I got to show other teachers how to get the best video on camera. Really, the creativity of the teachers in Newtown knows no bounds and everyone shares. I'm grateful that these caring individuals will be leading all those children away from the madness that descended upon them last week. They will pull magic out of their hats.
As young teenagers, many of my students referred to their hometown as a "one-horse town" or a "farm town." They looked forward to the day they could leave for college and maybe move to a big city. Some of them did. Just scanning the list I keep in touch with on Facebook, there are several enjoying New York City and Los Angeles. They're the very same 20-somethings who are posting about how wonderful their lives are now, thanks to growing up in Newtown.
Those of my students who returned to Newtown after college obviously feel the same way. They're raising their own families in that beautiful New England town and now they are the ones who will take over the leadership roles, many of them as teachers.
Despite the recent tragedy, I'm confident every child growing up in Newtown will be made to feel lucky to be surrounded by such caring people. I just know it in my heart.
Newtown is a finely tuned machine on the best days and now the world knows just how fine it can be under the burden of tragedy. More families will continue to move into town to take advantage of the wonderful schools and the wonderful people.
And I must also compliment the weekly Newtown Bee newspaper for their contribution to how well the town works on a day to day basis. It's truly good old-fashioned, hometown journalism in a time when other newspapers are giving up. The staff keeps everyone informed and entertained in addition to providing a hard copy of the accolades that scrapbooks are made of. It must be very hard for them to be turning out their current issues. I wish them luck.
To my teacher friends who may have heard I happened to be in Connecticut last week: I actually planned to go to the Newtown Library on Friday morning. A phone call from my friend Lisa stopped me. And my visit to the high school to see the new addition was set for Monday. And even with all that I've seen as a former reporter, I couldn't bring myself to drive down route 34. I was glued to the t.v. and I saw many of you, but I've been away for so long that I didn't want to intrude. Be sure NHS will be my first stop on my next visit. Be well.