By Julia Putnam
I dropped my children off at their elementary school this morning. As so many other mothers did. As so many other mothers did not.
I hugged my kids tight, kissed them, told them to have fun, and smiled. And then I turned around and closed my eyes and pictured their bundled bodies and annoyed expressions at my affection. I’m pretty sure this will not be the last time I see them. I trust that their teachers will treat them well and keep them safe. I trust that they will come back to me in just the way I left them—happy and secure.
But what if?
This question plagues parents all over the country today in light of the recent tragedy in Connecticut. But it plagues many parents all over the country every day, even before the Sandy Hook children were senselessly murdered. Because there are children being senselessly killed in cities and rural areas around this country every day. There are children being bullied, and molested, and torn down in so many ways in so many areas that it becomes hard to breathe to think of it.
There is no mother or father who regularly cares for their child—no matter where they live—that does not want to drop their kid off, kiss him, hug her, and walk away peacefully, trusting that their child will be cared for in the same meticulous way they are cared for at home. And children want to know that no matter what is going on at home, school is a safe haven full of friends and loving adults who make it their business to keep them safe.
This desire that parents and children have—to be safe and feel loved-- is the sacred trust that schools take on whenever they open their doors. I walked away from my children this morning feeling grateful that I have the privilege to work on the Boggs School. I have never wavered in my belief that a community-based school is what our city needs. But I now understand that this model is where our country is headed.
A community-based school is where all the children are cared for—not just the ones in my classroom or my school or on my block. It is not merely concerned with the facts that teachers impart and children learn. A community-based school is about practicing the habits we all need to reach our highest human potential. It’s about making sure that we are increasing our abilities at collaboration, empathy, grit, creativity, resourcefulness, critical thinking, and joy. A community-based school understands that we all belong to one another, that there is no me without you. It is inclusive and concerned for the children it serves, the parents it serves, the neighbors it serves, the teachers it employs, and the community in which it resides.
We can no longer believe that schools can be divorced from the happenings in the community that surrounds it. We are all everyone’s mother. And sister and brother and aunt and uncle. This ethic is what has kept humans alive in times of trouble. And we must acknowledge that we are in trouble. Interdependence is the only way we’ll survive. We must work together to keep our babies safe so that they we all may grow to become who we are meant to be.