This evening, Paul and I were channel-hopping, and we thought "Super Tornado" looked good. Normally, I find shows about natural phenomena really interesting, so it seemed the right choice. But when we started watching (a little after it had started), the programme was focusing on the staff and children at one of the two elementary schools that was hit.
I watched for a couple of minutes, wondering why it would occur to anyone to film this on their cameraphones rather than doing everything they could to watch out for danger and survive. Then they showed the footage of children and teachers leaving their hiding places and stepping out into an absolutely destroyed corridor. And I couldn't watch any more. I got very tearful, and had to switch channels to find something less school/college-focused.
This has happened regularly since I became a teacher. It never happened in any of my other jobs. I watched dramas about gunmen in court rooms when I worked for a judge (never worried me), footage of the July 7 bombings when Paul was commuting to that area of London (it absolutely bothered him though), and numerous campus incidents, fact and fiction, when I was a student, and it never affected me like this.
A friend once said that having children was as though someone opened a direct route to her heart and just left it exposed. I've never had children, and won't be doing so, and I would never dream of comparing being a teacher to being a mother, however much I mother and nurture my students. But I think I'm starting to get a better understanding of what my friend meant, and a little taster of what she must experience every day.
I struggled to deal with my feelings after the Sandy Hook shootings (in particular I couldn't get Vicki Soto and her sacrifice out of my head). Hell, I found it difficult to watch the "Silent Witness" episode "Shadows", and that was fictional. We have a lockdown policy for the College. My lab is the furthest point from the main entrance, so, one might imagine it would be the least likely place to have an incident. But that doesn't stop me spending far more time than is probably healthy, at least once a week, thinking about our lockdown policy, how quickly I could shut the door, turn off the lights and get everyone away from the windows. Where would I tell my students to sit? Would they be safe under the lab benches? Would the back of the lab under the windows actually be safer as we're on the 2nd floor?
I've become increasingly protective of my students. My manager has commented on this. And it's true - I will go up against Senior Management (and have done!) if a decision will adversely and unfairly affect them. I refer to it as "going Mama-Bear", though Paul says it's more that I'm the Khaleesi and the students are my dragons.
Do other teachers find they become complete wimps when anything violent happens in a school or college? Or am I just over-sensitive?