WOSTER: I can't make sense of school shootingI have a terrible tendency to fear the worst in life. Even so, I never, ever worried that my kindergarten-aged daughter or sons would be shot to death in a classroom.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
Reliance didn’t offer kindergarten when I was a boy, so what I know of that level of education I learned when my own children grew old enough to go off to Washington Elementary School here in Pierre.
Washington Elementary was, and remains, a cozy, old-fashioned school building, a one-story brick structure that runs the length of a block of Capitol Avenue, with plenty of outdoor space on the east and south sides for playground equipment, basketball hoops, fresh air and sunshine. It is located just four blocks east of our home, almost within sight of the governor’s residence. From some vantage point on the playground, a child or teacher might be able to see at least the dome of the State Capitol building. It’s old-school, neighborly and safe.
When Nancy and I watched our oldest child walk up the west steps and into the door of the school building that first year, our worries were the normal concerns that every parent of a kindergarten student had in those days four decades ago: Would the child cry her or his way through the first half of the morning? Would the child adjust to sitting around a table with other children, and to sharing things in the classroom and on the playground? Would nap time be an issue? Would the teacher understand and tolerate this child’s peculiarities and unique personality traits, allowing room to grow and gently easing the child in a direction that would lead to a successful transition from all-time play at home to a bit more structure?
Gosh, those things seemed huge that first day when our daughter left us for school. I worried as well whether, because she was such a gentle soul, her classmates would be too aggressive for her. I worried the same thing the following fall when her brother, an equally timid soul, accompanied his big sister to Washington School.
I worried a bit less that second year because, well, Scott had his big sister to guide him a little and to watch out for him while he made the adjustment. Besides, Jennifer had already had a year of kindergarten in Shirley Donahue’s classroom, and she assured us and Scott that his new teacher was the nicest person in the whole world.
I worried once in a while that one of our grade-school children would scrape a knee at recess, fall or be pushed from a swing, pick or be picked for a school-yard scuffle and come home with a bloody nose or torn shirt. I guess I worried that one of my little kids would be hurt physically in an accident or emotionally in the adjustment to a more crowded, assertive environment than they’d experienced in their pre-school years.
I have an over-active imagination and a terrible tendency to fear the worst in life. I inherited those traits from my late mother. Even so, I never, ever worried that my kindergarten-aged daughter or sons would be shot to death in a classroom at Washington Elementary School. It was a safe place. It was a school. They were little kids. People simply would not walk into a school and randomly hurt little kids.
As we learned again last Friday, some people will and do hurt little children in a school room. I listened and read the breaking news during the afternoon and evening, and in the middle of the night, I awoke and sat in the dark for a long time thinking of the senseless evil that caused the violent deaths of 6- and 7-year-old children at the start of a school day. Then I thought of those mornings when Nancy or I would watch our young daughter or sons walk down the front steps and along the sidewalk toward Washington School, and of those afternoons when one or the other of us would wait to see our child skipping home along the sidewalk. We would be a bit anxious if the child was a few minute late, but we knew she or he would be along soon.
I can’t reconcile that past with today’s reality. I just can’t make sense of things.