At a time when what it means to be a teacher is being defined by everyone except teachers, we need to remind ourselves of these two undeniable words:
After the tragedy in Newtown, CT, I published what became my most-read blog post ever; it generated so much traffic that my blog server crashed several times. Teachers all over the world wanted to know how they were going to address their students on Monday morning; what would teachers say, how would they act, would they show their own fears?
My prescription was quite simple: you will teach. As I wrote, “Thank God for teachers. Thank God you know what to do. Thank God you do what you do.”
This week, teachers once again were called to help children cope with a tragedy in New England, as a bomb blast took the life of an 8 year-old boy and two young women at the Boston Marathon. I didn’t feel the need to republish my post, because I know that teachers would know what to do: they would teach.
Teachers don’t just do what they do in moments of global tragedy; they do it every day, helping students deal with whatever problems, big or small, are holding them back. Our partner, findingDulcinea, presents some real-life examples in this post on the importance of great educators, and some famous examples in this post on how teachers empower students by expecting more of them.
Last week I spoke at the iPad Summit in Atlanta, GA. I knew I would be facing 1,200 educators who were struggling with what it means to be a teacher at a time when our profession is under attack from all sides. My job was to inject them with a passion for teaching, and tips for re-creating passion in their students. Jen Carey did a terrific job live blogging my talk.
The night before, I put my head on the pillow and began to form my final thoughts about my presentation. A thought came to me; even though I am no longer in the classroom and don’t have to worry about politicians or standardized test scores or helicopter parents, my job is far from easy. I travel more than I should, I battle the same intransigence that teachers encounter, and there are times I wonder why I do what I do.
Laying in bed well past my bedtime, I decided to lay that on the line the next day: I, too, suffer from self-doubt about whether I am in the right profession and whether I can continue with it. I, too, deal with frustrating people, who fight for their own limitations, every single day.
But unlike the 1,200 educators who were looking only at me for insight and wisdom, I had a much better vantage point: I was looking out at 1,200 educators, and finding inspiration in every single one of them. I told them that, as difficult as things could be from one day to the next, I knew I had all of them walking alongside me, and with them I could not fail.
After my presentation, a young man approached me and said, “This is my first year of teaching. I had pretty much made up my mind that this would be also be my last year of teaching. I now realize that teachers matter, and there is no way I’m giving up a job that matters.”