We live in such divided times. Many people have stripped the color from nuanced thinking and choose to think in black and white. They see what they want to see and resist ambiguity or broad-minded thinking. Our schools are not immune from this simplicity-seeking approach. We are constantly under scrutiny from the public and are somewhat of a Rorschach test for societies’ perceptions.
Teachers are frequently seen as heroes or villains. Often by the same people!
Teachers are heroes when they give up their lives to save their students’ under attack. But teachers are villains if they belong to the big-bad-union.
Teachers are givers if they selflessly stock their classrooms with books and supplies. But teachers are takers if they dare ask for enough money to live on from tax payers.
Teachers are outstanding if their students’ test scores exceed the state average. Teachers are failures if their students’ success isn’t reflected by numeric indicators.
I could go on with examples, but you get the point. Whatever ills society faces, it is often teachers who are expected to fix them. Or bear the burden of failure. Why don’t schools do this? Why did the school fail to address that? It can be incredibly disheartening. Especially during weeks like this one.
School shootings suck the breath out of us teachers. Shock and horror cannot begin to describe our reactions. Our empathy for those sister schools runs deep in our bones. We immediately imagine ourselves in the shoes of those teachers and feel their panic and devastation. We look at our students with such protective fierceness. We hug our own children tighter. We wonder, what we would do? How would we react? How would we and our students survive? It was a brutal week in so many ways.
So imagine my disgust when I see this trending on Twitter…
How quickly we shift from teacher as hero, to teacher as villain in our zeitgeist. ONE DAY after teachers laid down their lives. ONE DAY after teachers across this country witnessed yet another tragedy in our nation’s schools. ONE DAY!
And so as I villainously begin my February break, I reflect on my week as a teacher:
I didn’t spend my Valentine’s evening with my loving husband. I spent it at a school board meeting pitching a new reading and writing curriculum that I believe will enrich the lives our children, and was recognized for the two-year long journey to become a Nationally Board Certified Teacher.
I participated in a Choice Day at one of my schools where each teacher volunteered their time and talents to teach students ‘extra-curriculars’ from yoga, to drumming, to crafting survival bracelets, and much more in between. A fellow teacher and I led groups of students on a snowshoeing expedition through the woods behind the school. None of these kids had ever been on snowshoes and their reactions were priceless.
I invited teachers in my district to add to a collective poem entitled “I LOVE TEACHING” and was moved by the passion and dedication for children expressed in their words.
I spent an afternoon with the incredible teachers in my district learning how to make science more exciting and engaging for our students so they could begin to be more curious about the world around them. So they could understand the importance of science and facts to question, understand, and make sense of the world.
I curated a collection of books from my local library to digest over vacation so that I can better match books and readers and share my passion for reading with them.
So I go into this break with a roller coaster of emotions knowing I can only control what I do as a teacher, and not how others will perceive me. I know we are vilified by many and always will be. I am heartbroken by the school tragedy in Parkland, Florida. But I take heart in knowing what I do makes a difference, and I am inspired when I see teachers lifting one another up. Teachers will always be my heroes.
What’s On My Book Radar?
Miles Morales: Spider-Man by Jason Reynolds
Wow, this book was a page turner and not just because of its action-adventure mythos of Spider-Man, but because Jason Reynold’s created an intriguing life story for our hero-Miles Morales. Miles is a 16 year old black and Puerto Rican boy from Brooklyn, whose family has a troubled past. His parents are sacrificing a lot to send him to a prestigious school and break the cycle of crime and poverty. (Oh, and he’s also Spider-Man.) We learn the story of how this came to be and the uncle who was at the center of that tragic story.
We also meet his history teacher who espouses racists beliefs and preaches that slavery was a good thing. This gets Miles riled up and we learn there is an even more nefarious story beyond the classroom conflicts. With the help of his best friend, Ganke, Miles grapples with life as a teen: crushing on a girl, meeting a cousin in prison he didn’t know he had, avoiding expulsion after being set up…while simultaneously taking on an ancient organization of white supremacists who are using incarceration as the new slavery. Seriously-this book will grab you and not let go. Jason Reynold’s is amazing. Ages 12+