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December 18, 2012

Teachers prepare to return to classes after massacre

(Continued)

NEWTOWN, Conn. —

Throughout the weekend, Middle Gate's administration had been e-mailing her offers of free counseling and advice from therapists about how to discuss "loss, sadness or grief," with 5- and 6-year-olds. Now, as darkness began to fall Sunday night, Parniawski searched her closet for a school outfit and thought about what she would tell her students.

"I'm going to look them in the eye and be calm," she said, choosing a jacket.

"I'm going to tell them that this world has bad guys, but not very many," she said, picking out matching pants.

She had spent eight years turning her classroom into what she called a "safe space," with cushioned mats on the floor and pictures of students and their families decorating the walls. Her original lesson plan for the week had revolved around Christmas. She had bought decorative paper for the students to cut into trees and shapes. They would write their own holiday stories and make crafts to give as presents to their parents.

"Can we still do that?" she wondered.

She set out her outfit. She read the staff e-mails about the emotions she might encounter on a Monday morning at school. She was ready for grief. She was ready for anger and obliviousness and fear.

She was ready for work.

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Julie Tate contributed to this report.

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