Local After Effects of Sandy Hook

Olinski_BlogBy Matthew Olinski — The horrific event that unfolded at Sandy hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut made people across the country shudder.

I watched the events unfold on the television, as many others did, with the massively inaccurate information coming out, but that is a topic for another time. There were some similar effects closer to home, especially in my home school district which suffered its own tragedy over the summer, at the Sikh temple.

I had and have students in my classroom that were directly involved in the Sikh temple shooting, either through the loss of their parent, by hiding in the food pantry while the whole event took place, or through texting their parent who was hiding in the food pantry, not knowing what the outcome was going to be.

These two events have immediate consequences, the fear that coincides with experiencing an event such as either of these and after the original incident, the rebuilding of trust.  This is a careful activity.  For the first lock down drill of the year, I happened to be in the office while the students who were directly affected by the shooting at their temple were given notice that this was just practice, so they wouldn’t panic when the announcement was made and why rumors that were spread the week of December 17, not even in the Oak Creek community about a potential violent act caused such concern in our student population.

As teachers, we have a special role to fill. We are there not only to teach, but to reassure as well.  I attended the funeral services to let the students know they had people they could trust and could reach out to.  For years, students have asked why I lock my classroom door. I gave my standard response, which was to keep the “riff raff out”, but in addition, it also serves as a classroom management function.

Now the students don’t seem to be asking why I lock the door. It seems like a great idea to them. They’ve asked me questions in the past about “what if” scenarios. I do the best I can to reassure them that they are safe in my room.  I hope, as everyone does, that a day like that will never occur, but I ask myself, what would I do?

Those teachers at Sandy Hook elementary may or may not have deliberately thought about “what if”, but when the scenario occurred, there is no doubt in my mind they did the best they could to insure their students were safe, and now as Sandy hook elementary is reopening in another school, the teachers are going to be there to reassure those students’ fears about safety.


Matthew Olinski is a new blogger for Spring, 2013. He has been a teacher for 11 years, the past 10 at Oak creek High School. He is currently finishing his Master of Education in Educational Administration at Marquette, and will receive his degree May of 2013. On a more personal note, Matt was recently blessed with is first child, a daughter, born in July.

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