Unshakable Hope

April 17, 2019

Dear Families,

On December 31, 2018, I boldly and confidently claimed unshakable as my word for 2019. As an English major and teacher, I could have and should have seen the foreshadowing. Last night, as I communicated via text with a treasured friend, I responded in part of the exchange with, “I can literally only laugh at this point.” She knows my journey well.

My good.

My bad.

My ugly.

She responded in kind with, “Frankly, it’s all you can do. You seem to have a magnet to certain days.”

As the kids are saying these days…


I woke up with a start at 3:19 AM this morning. This generally means my brain, ADD and all, processed through the night. I made my way to my corner of the couch to journal. As I began to pen my thoughts, I glanced at the floor under our TV hutch. I caught sight of a bag of confetti left from Lisa’s service. I think it must have fallen out of the bag it was in at some point during the cleaning and shifting of things. I provided bags of confetti at her service in hopes that they would serve as physical reminders to scatter kindness like confetti.

I stared absently at the bag. I reflected that today, April 17th, the brokenness and evil in the heart of one person impacted the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

One person impacted this much change.


Ghandi’s quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” came immediately to mind.

I paused to process random thoughts and memories of yesterday’s dismissal. I saw concern, frustration, fear, worry, annoyance, gratitude, and question in the faces of adults and kids alike. Each of those reactions predictable. Each of those reactions reasonable.

In moments of escalating emotions, those forging the path must do so calmly. Without calm, chaos wins. Despite their personal emotions, fears, or concerns, I commend our families and our staff. Families allowed us to lead the controlled release. Staff responded to every direction without question.

I pause to confess that in the moment, I lied to a few students. The intensity in moments of emergency do not go unnoticed by our littles. They look to the adults for cues. I knew immediately that I needed to carry this suitcase. I knew because, in those moments, the truth would elicit fear. I knew that I could not tell the truth and simultaneously take care of them and effectively ensure safety and order during the controlled release. So, I told them I thought there was a coyote in the parking lot. The number one reason we initiate a lock out on our campus, coyotes.

They believed without question.

I own my deception and confess it. However, under no circumstances will I ever make their suitcases heavy intentionally. Not when it is within my power to protect them.

In the quiet of our home, I reflected on the sea of faces I saw yesterday. I pondered the communication I heard as I carried out my responsibilities in our lock out protocols. I replayed our administrative debrief and listened to the experiences of my colleagues.

As I allowed my mind to ping pong between my reflections and the bag of confetti, I realized our SVA community has a beautiful opportunity.

We can, as a community that actively acknowledges we engage in the pursuit of character and honor, turn the memory of April 17th around. Today, we can pause and reflect on our experience yesterday.

What did we experience?

How did we respond?

Did we observe responses that did not match our own?

In those observations, did we pause to reflect why the response of others did not match our own?

How did we respond to others in the process?

Did we consider the journey and story of each in individual around us?

In this reflection, a beautiful opportunity presents itself. The opportunity to actively contemplate and list ways to overcome the evil and pain in this world with good.

Twenty years ago Saturday, I awaited word of the status of two of my students’ sibling. Monday, I will attend the book talk presented by that sibling as she shares her story of survival at Columbine. Yesterday, I realized further the privilege I’ve been granted to serve our school community. The commitment I made twenty years ago to protect every student that crossed my path is seared on my heart forever.

No matter the cost.


I trust that as we proceed into the future, April 17th will be remembered as the day we chose to actively engage in kindness within our community.

Honored to Serve You All,

Janet Worley

Over My Shoulder

Talking Points for School Violence

Preventing School Violence

Managing Emotions in Trauma