This morning, my wife and I joined our son at a holiday breakfast celebration. The school’s multipurpose room (“the puh-pus room”, as Leo calls it) was filled with children between the ages of 3 and 6, who sat in a circle and sang songs while their parents leaned on walls and scanned the edges of the room for coffee. Then we broke bread together — each family bringing in dishes that represent “breakfast” to them: cranberry orange bread, hot tamales, donuts, fruit salad, and some delicious combination of onions and scalloped potatoes. The children quickly finished the food on their plates and then wove in and out of the groups of parents who stood and chatted, their teachers — all of them women — doing their best to maintain a small sense of order and decorum.
While Leo and I were sitting, one of his classmates came up and introduced himself to me. “My name is Antoine,” he said confidently and cheerily. “Nice to meet you, Antoine. I’m Leo’s daddy. How old are you?” “I’m almost six,” he said.
It remains incomprehensible that 20 children as young as Antoine lost their lives just a few days ago. It seems possible that this tragedy, unlike the others before it, may actually spark enough momentum to result in meaningful changes in our society. And it becomes essential that in the days and weeks ahead, all of us who are privileged to be members of a school community remember that amidst the coming wave of policy recommendations and professional advice, our own rules of engagement are kept as simple, and as impactful, as this:
With every interaction in a school, we are either building community or destroying it. Let’s all do our part.