In the last nine years there have been 9,600 attacks against schools in 70 countries.
“They are bombed, burned, shot, threatened and abducted precisely because of their connection to education,” said Diya Nijhowne, director of the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack.
There are those of you out there that bemoan the fact that teachers are not perceived as the modern nobility. Politics, the struggle to move into 21st century education, and presence of a few individuals who clearly don't belong in our ranks have brought criticism. Yet we're letting mass media headlines hide the truth.
Guardians at Future's Gate
Those who wish to destroy a community first target the schools. Most of us know that the heart of a community is the children. And we are the guardians. We teachers care for and teach the young so that there can be better tomorrows. Because of this important role, teachers remain the modern nobility.
I find it sad that teachers have to die in order to be praised for their nobility in the mass media. But we will not let headlines hide the truth from our own eyes.
Teachers, let me remind us all that we are to speak of our own nobility. There are those among us who are amazing and teach us all every day.
My purpose for Every Classroom Matters is to tell the story of a new nobility rising among us. Teachers who are excited about the future. Teachers who work hard every day and learn from each other. There are more of us than you think.
Teaching is a tough profession. I'm sitting here in a hotel room preparing to go on a trip and I am sick as a dog. I am totally worn out from the fast pace of the past few weeks of December. With events every night and grading to do in the wee hours of the morning, I'm spent for a cause that I care about. All those kids we love are enjoying their holidays happily clueless about the toll this career takes on our lives.
Appreciation of Your Profession Starts with Appreciating Yourself
No matter how hard you work, there will be those who don't think you do enough. No matter the thousands of arrows you deflect from harming your students, you know one hurtful barb will get through. No matter how many great stories coming out of your classroom, you'll have one parent who thinks you're a pretender.
As teachers, we have to learn to focus on the doing. Are you doing your best? Are you leveling up a little every day? Are you managing your classroom effectively? Is your classroom a safe place where learning is celebrated?
If you're doing all these things then you'll have to know that you're doing all you can. For our worth is not built upon being popular. Admittedly, we and the children we care for are often the first targets of terrorists. Sadly, we are also targets for those who are angry at an education SYSTEM that needs to improve. Teachers are easy targets but let's not be so easily discouraged.
The Price of Heroism
As I was contemplating the Sony Pictures hacking and their retreat to not show the Interview this week. I was thinking how easy it is for people to be motivated by fear. We're afraid so we HAVE to do this or that, forgetting that once we show our fear, we show our weakness.
Everyone wants to praise Winston Churchill – but no one wants to be him. They praise Abraham Lincoln, Dietrich Bonhoffer, and Rosa Parks but no one wants to BE them. Fighting for the right thing usually means you step out alone – at first.
Bravery is hard stuff. You might lose something valuable to you. If you say something unpopular, people might not like you. I've found in this life that people don't think about us nearly as much as we think about ourselves. But part of our problem in the US is that we fear others not liking what we have to say. Our form of persecution is popularity. (Our rathers are not aligned. )
Think of the gutsy teacher who wrote a letter to her kindergarten parents about why she was refusing to give a test. The whole state of Florida decided to opt out of the reading test! She risked her job and everything she loved. But she was right.
So, as you contemplate teaching also consider the kind of bravery it takes to be one. When people leave the profession they usually say something like “I just couldn't do it.” “It” being the equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest every 9 weeks. “It” being the exhaustion of never having time to get “it” all done. “It” being never knowing when the next parent will come after you with no notice or chance to explain yourself. “It” being never knowing when you'll have another child have a parent or sibling die or another divorce or another tragedy. Because our student's tragedies are ours. “It” aka teaching is hard.
We struggle to teach and yet we struggle to do a good thing.
The Worth of a Teacher
So as I sit here sick in a hotel room pondering the profession I love, I want you to know how much you — the teachers and administrators — all of you on the “front lines of the future” — are worth. You are valuable. You are important. You are worthy. You matter so much to our world that when evil wants to bring a community to its knees – you're the one they attack. You're the first line of defense to help tomorrow be better than today.
My wish for you today is that you may have your own very silent night. That whatever you celebrate that you consider your own calling.
We Give Our Lives
And for me, as I celebrate the birth of the greatest man who ever lived, I will consider that He came to earth and wanted to be called “Teacher”. I will consider that He loved me and you enough to give his life for us and said that the greatest thing we can do is give our life for others.
And that, my friends is what we do every day – we give our lives in a worthy cause.
A Blessing on Teachers
May you find rest, joy, and peace. May you rest deeply and well so that you'll be energized to teach again in 2015.
Teachers are my heroes. Teachers should be all of our heroes. Thank you, teacher — your presence is a present to a world that doesn't quite know how to say thank you.
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