I began this post with thoughts of how February is heart month in many ways. We wore red on February 2nd, to raise awareness of cardiovascular disease and then on Valentine’s Day we send our spouses, partners and friends, hearts and flowers to remind them that we love them. Yesterday, a second grade student brought me a tiny card with a picture of a cat on it and wished me a Happy Valentine’s Day. I was touched by the gesture and gratified by the expression of unconditional love from a stable, happy child. It was particularly significant for me because I had just met with the school psychologist to discuss another student from a very dysfunctional and loveless background. I sometimes saw a glimmer of wry humor but most times she was a troubled, angry and frequently hostile young person. However, when she came to my office, I would talk to her about her dreams and aspirations and let her know that I believed in her. I got to thinking about what we and our safe spaces represent for the students. We rarely ask anything of them, except perhaps to do their glucose testing and take their medication. We don’t give them tests, we don’t grade them or judge them on their academic achievement. We have this special relationship with them, but it carries some responsibility because we are in a unique situation to identify the story behind the troubled behavior. We can treat them with loving kindness, give positive reinforcement and show that we believe in them, but we can also refer to mental health professionals and behavior therapists who can offer specialized help.
This was my Valentine’s Day post about love for the unloved, and then I heard the news from Stoneman Douglas High School in Coral Springs. It was devastating. Seventeen people lost their lives today and many more were injured. I don’t know these people personally, but we all know them. We work with them every day. We have this strong bond because they are our students, and the teachers and staff are our colleagues. And the gunman, the shooter, the perpetrator – we use these words to separate him from those people we just mentioned, but he used to be one of them. A child in foster care whose foster mother died recently. Troubled, angry, hostile maybe?
I have a very heavy heart as this Valentine’s Day draws to a close. I know that you all must feel as I do, and I ask that we support each other and our school communities, and remember the victims, their families, friends and colleagues in our prayers.