"I am safe, responsible, respectful, and prepared."

This was "The Code" of educator Dawn Hochsprung when she was principal of Mitchell Elementary School in Woodbury, Connecticut.  

It was a great code, but it didn't much impress my daughter or her friends when Hochsprung took the wheel  five or six years ago.  That was because the start of her leadership coincided with some policy ending the tenure of class pets.  Anyone who would chase the guinea pigs and hamsters out of town would remain suspect among our crowd for a long time.  

Eventually, though, kids saw The Code as a good thing. Ms. Hochsprung did a lot to shape up my daughter's school, and it was clear she cared about and deeply respected kids.

Ms. Hochsprung made sure the outline of an open hand with The Code on it was in every classroom.  As a mnemonic device, kids had to say the code on their fingers:  I am (out goes the pinky) safe (here comes the ring finger), responsible (the middle finger safely comes forward), respectful (the pointer), and prepared (the thumb).  The result was an open hand, a high five, a salute character.

I remember when Ms. Hochsprung introduced The Code to parents at one of those interminable overheated evening open houses of PowerPoints and boxed cookies.  She was as bright as early morning, and she remarked that "safe" came first because children cannot learn if they are not safe.  Being responsible, respectful, and prepared come out of being safe.  

When the news broke today that Ms. Hochsprung was killed after warning her school that a violent intruder was in the building, my daughter's classmates tweeted The Code in memory of Ms. Hochsprung.  One young adult after another retweeted the message:
I am
Respectful and 

Good Lord willing--and with a little gun control--we'll be safe again.



  1. i am so sorry that this loss is so close and too personal.

  2. Anonymous10:12 PM

    no words Sandy . xoxo

  3. My heart aches for all of you, Sandy! Too close and too personal does indeed make it all the harder! My thoughts are with all of you!!

  4. Sandy, you are more than welcome to use any shots that I have. I'm delighted to share them with you!!

  5. Oh Sandy, I'm so sorry for your daughter's and your personal loss. This is a beautiful but heartbreaking tribute to her. You have made her much more than "the principal" in today's horrible events.

  6. You and your daughter were the first people I thought of today when this unfolded. I knew you were close to that area - but I wasn't sure how close.
    Such a tragedy. You have my deepest sympathy.

  7. I wondered if you knew any of the people involved... what a tragedy! Hugs...

  8. A beautiful tribute. What a terrible tragedy....so hard to even read about it.

    Hugs, G

  9. I thought of you and Della all day sandy. Much love to you both.

  10. I don't believe we will be safe for a long, long time

  11. Dear Sandy, I was shocked to hear about this on the news last night. And I am sorry that this ht so close to home for you...
    We here in Europe feel at all times that the gun control in the US is an issue that needs to be addressed.
    Or many more sad days like this will come in the future ...
    Hugs to you,

  12. This is awful!Absolutely sensless.
    I can't even imagine.
    I think "safe" is unrealistic today.
    Caution is a better word. No one is safe today anywhere because people are not behaving and this leads to tragedy.
    Now why would this lady keep such horrible weapons at home especially when she had a child with a personality disorder? I have to keep asking this question? Did she live in fear? Was she not safe?
    These things are happening more and more today. If you live by the sword you will die by the sword.No one should own weapons like this.
    They are meant for mass killings and have no place in a civilized society.

  13. Dear Sandy- When this news broke, I knew somehow that you were connected to it. . . I just knew.

    Glad you and your daughter are "OK"

    Wonderful tribute to Mz. H which I have posted on FB.

    Weekend Aloha from Honolulu
    Comfort Spiral
    ~ > < } } ( ° >
    > < } } ( ° >

  14. Oh Sandy. I am so sorry. The tragedy has been on my mind every minute today...but so much closer for you. This is a lovely tribute to a true hero. Hugs to you and Adele.

  15. Anonymous6:27 PM

    Her family name translates into 'jumping high'.

    From where she will continue to teach us right usage of our fingers.

  16. We are, one by one, learning of our losses today. So I am glad you wrote this because it helps the pain.

  17. RIP Mrs. Hochsprung !

  18. Anonymous7:30 AM

    that message is amazing...we are never safe as far as we are a part of an insecure world!

  19. I pray that gun control and a more positive attitude towards educators come from this heinous act. Through out the educational life of my sons I've come across teachers and administrators that were truly dedicated to their profession. Listening to the stories from Sandy Hook especially Kaitlin Riog and the heroic action of Virginia Soto, it is clear Dawn Hochsprung loved her work and the children she was responsible for. Thanks for sharing this, I didn't know anyone from Newtown or Sandy Hook, but the more I hear and read, it seems like I've met them all.

  20. Anonymous10:47 AM

    It's a terrible tragedy indeed. Gun control, accountability, listening to teachers and improving help for those with mental illnesses and who really need it are musts.

  21. oh Sandy, I am grateful that your daughter and many children and adults are safe, and my heart breaks reading your words for those who were killed, and for the suffering of those who were witnesses and the surviving members of their families and the community... how blessed you and all those children, staff and parents were to know Mrs Hochsprung.

    Thank you for sharing this personal story... things MUST change. This can be tolerated no longer in our country.

  22. Oh Sandy~~When I heard the news I immediately thought of you- never dreaming that the story would hit so close to home for you and your daughter. I can't even imagine what you are all going though out there- my heart is breaking for you ALL...


  23. Beautiful tribute to this dedicated teacher. When I heard the news, I thought of you and wondered if you had any connections to the school.

    May we all be safe, responsible, etc.

  24. I am profoundly moved by your post and extend my sympathy for the loss you've experienced. God Bless this wonderful woman!


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