Teaching is unique.
I can think of no other profession as influential as education. Sure, accountants are important. Lawyers and judges can affect millions with a single decision. The person responsible for making sure that the sewer pipes stay unclogged absolutely deserves our respect. But without teachers, none of those people would exist.
Even the most menial tasks require a basic education – maybe not in physics, algebra, or literature, but in following directions and, you know, being a human. I guarantee that everyone remembers something from school, whether it be a particular teacher, project, or room. Some year, some way, your formative years were profoundly influenced by your education.
The United States education system is high-stakes.
I don’t mean this in the way that it is often used and, more and more often, proscribed: “high-stakes testing.” No, I mean high-stakes in and of itself: what we do every single moment of every single day is being watched and absorbed, sometimes even subconsciously, by society’s littlest humans. And I think that there is a huge gap between the perception of what goes on in schools and the reality.
Yes, some of this is our fault. I don’t think that teachers are always the best ambassadors of education: some of us don’t speak up enough, some of us turn people away with our constant negativity (because there is definitely a tendency to sit in the muck and cry, “Woe is me”), some of us are too exhausted to take action, and some of us are not even sure what action is best to take.
However, there are certain things we simply do not have the power to do. So many of the critical decisions in education are made by politicians, not educators: from budgets to teacher evaluation and tenure to social services for the kids we teach, we have little to no say about some of the things that affect us most.
This blog is me doing my little to contribute. I aim to be a platform for educators. I hope that the general public will read critically and respond to what we have to say. A hugely impactful portion of that public is the politicians, for they are the ones who, consciously or not, determine how many of our days, weeks, months, and years go. Do we succeed or fail in teaching our kids, loving our kids, growing our craft? It’s often up to our lawmakers.
So why not run for office, you ask? Honestly, I’ve never felt the pull to do so. I think that my gifts are in communication and relating to people, which I choose to use through teaching and writing instead.
I spoke recently to a colleague who began her career in education because she realized politics was not for her, either. But, as a political science and history major, she still wanted to incite passion and foment change. Or, to use a cliché: she wanted to make a difference.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which we can use to change the world,” said Nelson Mandela. I stand firm in my belief in this quote. Teaching is my version of “being the change” that I wish to see in the future.
I saw a bumper sticker once that said, “Stay in school. Learn the system. Change the system before the system changes you.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
I’ll be talking more about the systematic things that need changing in future posts. I hope you’ll engage with me.
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