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Why the Choices Teachers Make Matter

As most of you know, I’m an avid runner—and an avid reader. So, one of my favorite recent discoveries is the Audible app. It allows me to download books and listen to them while I run. Of course, I’m a teacher and love to highlight, mark up text, and draw asterisks in “real” books … so, listening to audiobooks was a bit of an adjustment. But the convenience is great, and I’ve found that sometimes hearing the story—especially when it’s about a topic like HOPE—is almost more impactful.

That was certainly the case as I listened to the book, Choosing Hope: Moving Forward from Life’s Darkest Hours, by Kaitlin Roig-Debellis. You might remember Mrs. Roig-Debellis as the Sandy Hook Elementary teacher who saved her entire first grade class when a gunman broke into the school and killed 20 children and six adults.

I was nearly stopped in my tracks as I listed to her tell the bone-chilling story of hearing the gunshots and shattering glass. She tells of immediately hopping up from circle time with her students to shut the door and turn out the lights. Unfortunately, she’d forgotten to grab her keys and realized she didn’t have time to go back for them and lock the door. So, she gathered all 15 of her students into the single-occupancy bathroom attached to the classroom.

Moments later, the gunman opened her classroom door. Mrs. Roig-Debellis believes that because he saw it was dark and empty, he chose to move on.

It was powerful hearing this. As a teacher and lover of children, I can’t imagine the amount of hatred it required to perpetrate such a heinous crime. And I can’t imagine the strength it required for the teachers, the students, their families to endure such unbearable pain.

Equally powerful is hearing Mrs. Roig-Debellis say that, after everything, she still chooses HOPE. She chooses to share her experience with the world because she wants to find meaning and purpose in this tragic event.

See, we all have a CHOICE in how we deal with the circumstances in our life. We can choose to live in darkness, or we can focus on hope for the future.

Being a teacher in today’s world can be fraught with difficulties. It can leave you feeling powerless. But Mrs. Roig-Debellis’ story is one that every teacher should embrace.

We have a choice every single time we step into our classrooms. I say we stand together, and choose hope.

Choose hope … for our students, for our schools, for ourselves.

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