News - Life-saving labor of love

Teachers return to their Under-the-microscope task

I love my profession. I am a high school English literature teacher.

But I have also taken notice of the myriad troubles that attack the morale of teachers in America. And I have made the very conscious decision not to internalize those troubles, because to do so would prevent me from truly breathing new life into those laboring along this embattled Western front.

What keeps my momentum from flagging, even as I struggle up education's delicate crystal stairway, is the awareness that I am one of many dedicated servants to a diversifying society.

I am an instrument of change. Teachers change lives. Teachers even save lives.

I am sure that Creative Loafing's readers have been bombarded with the media's misrepresentation of my profession and colleagues.

It sometimes seems as if any television program airing between the months of August and June portrays educators as a dispirited, misbegotten lot. I, too, have seen the misrepresentations and overblown untruths.

The reality is that educators begin every new year with the intention of changing someone's world — oftentimes, even if it means sacrificing their own.

My colleagues and I are fresh in August, and immediately begin dealing with our student's difficulties with an intensity unknown to most other callings. In many ways, the process of educating youth often begins with breaking the pattern of miseducation that has been traced before students' births, within the developmental years and even between the time it takes to travel from their homes and into the classroom.

For nine months of every year, educators push students to question their very place in life, in order to help young minds understand just how powerful they really are. And increasingly, teachers find themselves under fire for assuming the difficult roles they have decided to play in the evolution of America, as if molding the minds of America's young people is not as important as designing a computer program, running a touchdown or even picking up garbage.

But by the end of the annual journey, many of them — my colleagues — will have internalized the broadcast woes that purportedly beset American education.

With so many deterrents to morale, one could easily wonder what keeps millions of educators returning to the classroom amidst the growing violence and frustration that accompany the calling.

The answer is simple. Teachers save lives.

For every child comforted by a teacher after suffering the everyday slights and struggles of youth, we should consider a life saved. For every student freed from the shackles of ignorance and miseducation, we should consider a life saved. For every teenager who has walked across a graduation stage in spite of the negative forces that might have blocked the goal of a complete education, we should consider a life saved.

And for every brave soul who decides to shoulder the mantle of teaching, truly the most noble profession, we should consider a life dedicated to serving not just students, but mankind itself; a service with potential so great that its magical effect may emerge within the span of a lifetime.

Teachers are like firemen. But our profession demands that we brave the inferno without the luxury of searching for medals of valor, and to indulge such selfishness would dampen our sense of self-worth and our ability to save lives.

We teach because it is worthwhile and righteous. Educators are the cornerstones in American existence. The laurels of society rest upon our ability to ensure the continued development of America.

But the seasons are changing. America is changing. The field of education is changing because education itself waves the flag of change.

As we open the doors to our schools once again, I urge my fellow educators to break their own patterns of self-doubt. Do not internalize the negatives of past lives — internalize the joys. Take solace in how valuable you truly are.

August is again upon us. Our children are among us.??

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