Sunday, July 12, 2009

Teacher to Teacher - A New Set of Encouraging Stories

I’m So Glad You Said That

“The thoughts of the righteous [are] just, but guidance from the wicked [leads to] deceit. The words of the wicked are a deadly ambush, but the speech of the upright rescues them.”
Proverbs 12:5-6 HCSB

When bad things happen, sometimes the good go a little crazy! This is the trap set for teachers, normally level headed and wise, when administration makes a mandatory change that does not seem in the best interest of students or teachers. Especially when the mandate is unfunded, as is often the case in education.

The budget shortfall and its impending job cuts and reassignments threw the usually loyal and dedicated faculty into a freefall. The uncertainty of what the new school year would bring festered just under the skin of their resolve. Rumors swirled around the school district in opposition to the superintendent’s assurances that all would work out in the end. The problem comes when we listen to rumors and turn deaf to the truth.

Teachers’ lounge murmurs leaked out into the hallways, the parking lot and even into our after hours gatherings. I met with some of my teacher friends right after school during this topsy turvy time and listened as they vented their disbelief, their anger and even their fears. I sat quiet, composed, with my chin in my hands until my three friends finally looked my way.

“Doesn’t it infuriate you? How can you be so calm?” one asked.

“The Union’s not going to let them get away with this,” another voiced. “Did you read the emails that were flying around today?”

“I’m sorry, I just don’t think I can take much more of this,” one friend revealed while looking for hope at the bottom of her diet cola.

I smiled. That really threw them.

“It doesn’t matter,” I said. “It doesn’t affect what I do at all.”

Now I had their attention. It’s so easy to get caught up in the negative. Panic is contagious. A crowd of teachers relying on rumors is no different than a crowd running for the exit of a burning building. It’s dangerous. We know we should calmly exit the building; that’s what we’re taught.

But all it takes is one person to panic and the rest of us get trampled.

“It doesn’t matter how much money we’re short. It doesn’t matter if they expect too much for too little,” I finally explained my composure. “I can close my classroom door and then do what I’ve been called to do – teach the students given to me. That’s all that matters. Let the powers that be fight it out. I refuse to be distracted by their politics.”

Silence. And then. . .

“I’m so glad you said that. Thank you!” one teacher said. “I needed to hear that. I needed to be reminded why I’m here.”

We then gave laughter a chance to infect us.