“You will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”
– Isaiah 58:12b NIV
I entered the profession of teaching in the fall of 1992. This coming October of 2012 will officially be my twentieth year serving as an educator in Prince George’s County Public Schools! Whew! I remember someone telling me early in my career to make a move out of education before year 7 if I felt teaching wasn’t for me, because after year 7 that’s it. Year 7 came and went and leaving was never an option. I enjoyed my career as an educator, art teacher, and the experiences along the way that made it a rewarding and enriching experience. Just this year, I realized I have spent the past 30 years, since the age of 14, working with youth beginning with the role of summer camp counselor as a teenager. I was honored by one of my former art students, upon her graduation from college at the University of Maryland, College Park, with a certificate as one of 2 most influential educators in her academic career. Wow! At that moment, I felt what I had sought to accomplish as an educator was fulfilled and affirmed by the recognition I received for the contribution made in the life of this one student. Her life is my official ‘plaque’ that encourages me in my role as an educator.
I recently wrote an article for the school community newsletter of the community I serve titled, It Still Takes a Village, in which I commented that when those outside the schoolhouse rally around the schoolhouse to support it instead of surrounding it to attack and condemn it then you will see the change everybody desires to see. Until then, I wrote, one would only need to look outside from within the schoolhouse to see that the schoolhouse is merely a reflection of the society that surrounds it. Where are we going as a nation when the President is condemned for commenting, speaking on the current plight of a system that currently is in need of support? How far have we progressed as a nation if progress means doing away with the Department of Education as a means to resolve our budget crisis? Truly the schoolhouse is merely a reflection of the society that surrounds it considering budget cuts begin with what matters most to aid educators in their ability to educate. What would need to occur before they realize educators are people too and this system will only be as productive as those who serve to sustain will be?
How much sense does it make to provide less, demand more and have a greater level of expectation? Pharoah did this to the Israelites and look what happened to Egypt as a result. There is a quote by an unknown author that says, “If you don’t feed the teachers, they will eat the children.” Educators are maligned by the press, the public and the people within the community who disregard our efforts and invalidate our status as mere babysitters. Anyone who is worth their salt as an educator knows their contribution to their craft goes well beyond the contracted duty hours. The sacrifice made by educators is felt in their own homes, their own children and families, due to the time invested on behalf of other people’s children and families. In my article I noted that, from the perspective of blame, there would be enough to go around for those who choose to point the proverbial finger at the schoolhouse teacher. Educators are not responsible for the growing societal and community challenges that impact the student’s ability and initiative in seeking sincerely to demonstrate initiative in contributing to their education, but there were those who felt the President was wrong for challenging students to take more responsibility for their education.
When I was growing up, the television communicated to me that the mind was a terrible thing to waste. What is television telling today’s youth? Society is saying you don’t even have to go to college from high school now to become a professional athlete. I am in favor of making use of technology in the classroom, but teachers are competing with the student’s attention because of their desire to text during instruction. 24 hour access to television is impacting the student’s drive and ability to focus while in the classroom, but educators are not responsible for instilling discipline in students outside of the classroom. With the increasing number of students who need accommodations during instruction, who provides accommodations for the educator to meet these growing demands? Even with the inclusion of technology, where is the educator’s time allotted to plan for inclusion of technology when planning time and planning days are consumed with more meetings to address the constant change of instructional terminology that affects how students learn from year to year?
Pharoah decided he would one up Moses for demanding release of the Israelites by taking away their straw to make bricks, but demanded they meet their daily quota by requiring them to go out and get their own straw. Sounds familiar? Innovation is not new to educators. We have been discovering ways to make things work while those who know how to solve the problems continue to add greater burdens of responsibility without the support to get the job done. Former head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Chuck Noll stated, “People think motivation comes from the mouth. Motivation comes from helping someone get the job done.” When those outside the schoolhouse understand this, you’ll see the village invested in raising the child.
May God bless you and help you to receive the necessary encouragement, support and motivation to continue to teach, influence and inspire learning.