Jim describes a tragedy at his school. My heart goes out to him, his colleagues, and his students.
If you count student teaching, this is my eighth year teaching at my high school, and amazingly, we have not had a single student death. Not even one. By now, statistically, there should have been more than one--a drunken accident, a suicide, a natural cause. We've been incredibly lucky. Every homecoming and prom I hold my breath--and every time, we've come back with the student body intact, and I've exhaled. I don't think we're special. I think we're lucky. Or, as one of my bosses put it when I said this to him, "overdue."
When any tragedy happens, they have the emergency faculty meeting before school, just like the ones Jim describes. Every time I hear "We have an urgent faculty meeting in the back of the theater at 7:15," my stomach falls. It's NEVER good news. We've only had three of those meetings. Each was certainly tragic--one was 9/11, one the sudden death of a custodian, and one a tragic accident involving a teacher's adult son. I don't mean to soft-pedal the horror of any of those events, each of which was awful and impacted me, but from what I've been told, they don't have the same sort of local, immediate emotional wallop as losing a student. My older colleagues describe the feeling. You bust your butt every day thinking of kids' futures, and then...suddenly, strangely, unnaturally--there isn't a future any longer.
I plan on teaching 29 and a half more years. This will happen to me. And I'm not sure I'll know how to take it.