There are obvious moments when teachers are the heroes of the stories.
…Standing between the child and the bullet…
…Standing between the child and the tornado…
Those teachers who do everything, give everything, to save the life of a child are obviously the heroes of the story. Fortunately, most of us will never experience those moments. For most of us, more subtle opportunities to be the hero of the story happen every day. Every. Single. Day.
We all stand between the child and the system.
We are the filter, making sure the good stuff gets through. We do our best to give the child the knowledge and skills required for a happy and successful life. We do our best to ignite a fire in them, so they love life and keep their curiosity and find their passions.
We also do our best to absorb the bad stuff, so that no matter what the field of education looks like right now, the children get an experience that is engaging and relevant for who they are as individuals, and where they are at this moment of their life. We stand between the child and the institution, making sure the child has space to learn and grow.
I believe there are many right ways to raise a child, many right ways to educate a child. I believe there is no one right way that would be right for everyone or best for everyone. Public school, private school, homeschooling, unschooling… I believe they are all excellent choices, and when chosen for good reasons and done well, every single one of them can produce a productive, engaged, well-educated adult.
I also believe in the system. I believe that public education, as an institution, has an important role to play in our society. The task of educating about 90% of the school-aged children in the nation — that’s over 40 million students this year — comes with great challenges. How do you provide a quality education for that many children without being somewhat standardized and “one size fits most”?
That’s our job, friends. I do not have 40 million students in my classroom this year. I have 25, give or take. I can get to know 25 children well, both who they are as people and what they need as learners. I am the adult in the room. No matter what pressure is on me, I can do my best not to pass it on to the 6-year-olds. I believe I can provide, within the walls of my classroom, within the context of our school family, an environment where motivation and curiosity are honored, where education is the goal, and where “the system” is neither dictator nor enemy, but a tool for good.
In the daily grind of the school year, I forget these things I believe. Interpret these thoughts as you will… I might be too idealistic, too emotional, too optimistic for your tastes, but my world doesn’t work any other way. I just needed to write these thoughts down, before the school year starts, so I can come back here and read them when I forget what I believe and why I do this.