I’ve been struggling for the past few days, as I’m sure most Americans (and those around the world) are even if it isn’t always spoken aloud in conversation. My first instinct was to avoid the news altogether, because I knew once I started I would want to know every detail. There is some comfort in information regardless of how horrifying it is. I think this is why media can’t stop sometimes. It is less painful to search for facts than to deal with the emotions that come up inside.

I love schools—any learning institutions, really. I love the love in a teacher’s heart for all his/her students. It frustrates me when people focus so much on better teacher training & blaming teachers for low-test scores. I’ve seen countless over-crowded, under-funded, ill-resourced classrooms across Los Angeles, and it’s a miracle these teachers can still work their magic. I never question where their heart lies. It is always with the kids. They sacrifice decent pay, time and their own money for their students. They put up with any federal/state mandates placed upon them—the tests, the curriculum, whatever is thrown their way– because they aren’t giving up on their students. If you know a teacher, they may come home complaining. The complaints are rarely about a student. They mainly arise from anything that hinders the students from being their best, which causes such heartache and frustration to a teacher.

And here we see the truth: they (and the administrators as well as the teacher’s aides) would sacrifice their lives. Their hearts are with these kids, and as we call them heroes today I hope we remember this when speaking about teachers tomorrow. You are lucky to send your kids to a school where they will be loved just as much (sometimes more) than they are at home.

My imagination has already gone to the darkest moments in that school, the huddled/hiding 6 and 7yr olds who didn’t have a fighting chance. I imagine the brave police officers running in and seeing the worst side of mankind. If you don’t know my own love of little kids, let me be clear—being a teacher (and teaching assistant) has been in my eyes the biggest gift I’ve ever been given. Their creativity, their imagination, their smiles that come with such ease and regularity, their open hearts, their sensitivity—it’s like a lesson in being alive every time I welcome them into my class. On days when my own heart isn’t so happy, I make it a point to look into their eyes & say a silent thank you for their effortless lifting of my spirit.

To think these precious souls were targeted brings a kind of grief I can’t really delve into. We talk about gun control, mental illness, and moving forward—but I am stuck in that horrifying moment in time when someone’s mind lost all sanity & the most vulnerable were under attack. Right after the shooting happened, I dropped off holiday gifts at a Los Angeles elementary schools for some of my kindergarten students. They sat on their carpet squares with attentive eyes as I told them thank you for being such a wonderful class for me, and they gave me a big in unison “thank you” as I left with a “Happy Holidays!” The school had a festive, vibrant mode about it—students delivering packages, coming back from holiday performances & everyone looking excited about the upcoming school break. It felt like a safe haven from the outside world, but now that I think about it—the front door is open & all I had to do to get past the administrators was to sign my name on a sign in sheet.

I had a nightmare last night, just going through different scenarios of where I would hide my students if something similar happened. I thought, “I need to clear out some closets at work…just in case.” I woke up to news of the burials beginning and images of 26 Christmas trees in honor of those killed at the school. My heart is filled with heaviness today, and sometimes writing is the only way I can express this. But I know I am saying nothing different than what you are feeling as you read this. I have no new argument, debate or solution.

I have always believed that good will overcome evil in the end. There is no limit to what we can do as a people if we let love guide us instead of fear. I have to continue believing this to move from one day to the next, despite the pain or heartbreak at the evil around us. If I had to ask anything of myself and of you, it would be to love a little bit more openly this holiday season. If, like me, you sometimes hold your heart too close to yourself to avoid it breaking—let’s forget to listen to that fear. Let people know they are loved. Let them know how much they mean to you, how much they are valued. It is the most powerful weapon we have.