From Our Executive Director, Jacqueline Hicks (May 2017 Newsletter):
Last week, I had the good fortune to attend an event, “Inspiration for Teachers,” at the start of National Teacher Appreciation Week. It was both a celebration of teachers, and launch of a new Chicken Soup for the Soul book, Inspiration for Teachers. It was an amazing evening, with presentations from some of the authors of the 101 stories in the book, highlighting how teachers make a difference. Like everyone else in the packed auditorium, I was moved by the many ways educators impact the lives of their students and how students impact the lives of their teachers. I became particularly tearful when one of the presenters, a young woman, recounted how her relationship with a teacher, through dealing with a serious physical disability, changed her life. She spoke about how he had inspired her, and that she wondered what inspires teachers? For me, and I believe most other teachers, inspiration comes largely from that relationship with students and the opportunity to facilitate them actualizing their potential. And the biggest boost comes when a student expresses gratitude publicly for the love and support they experienced in achieving their success. Next after that is the appreciation from parents for the growth and happiness they see developing in their children. This book launch is still affecting me, stirring up memories of these very significant, emotional moments in my career.
On the next Sunday, a colleague directed my attention to a TED talk being broadcast on KPBS, also I’m sure, to honor Teacher Appreciation Week. I only caught the second half of the show, but I was particularly struck by a woman who took on being principal of a school in a community with a high rate of poverty, high crime, and a low rate of high school graduation. Gang activity and violent crime in the community left students feeling uncertain about even surviving to adulthood. Her story was one of courage, creativity, and commitment to provide a quality education where no books or other resources existed, and students were unmotivated to learn. She found resources wherever she could, spent her own money for supplies, worked endless hours, and hired teachers who were similarly courageous, creative and committed; together they turned that school around. I think she shared that they graduate over 80% of their students now—a huge improvement. Just as I was beginning to feel tears welling up in my eyes and emotion filling my throat, I wondered why these stories get to me so much. I’ve heard them before, many times. Heck, I have my own stories. As I pondered, the emotion in my throat and the tears in my eyes dissipated, and I started feeling angry, and then hurt.
I realized that I chose to invest a great deal of my time, energy and money to make things work for my students. I did it gladly and would do it again. The hurt comes when I feel there is an expectation that I will work long hours and spend my own money to provide needed school supplies, food, and personal hygiene items, in support of optimizing the learning environment for my students; I will do what the government/society does not do. Teachers can be counted on for that. Teaching is a tough job. Those who do it will say they feel called to do it. When I see that I have been inspirational to students and colleagues, when my students, their parents, and my boss recognize my contribution, then financial compensation becomes less important to me and I accept less. I fear this is an expectation that we who teach have created for ourselves, by the fact that we will do whatever it takes to make sure our students get what they need. We let government/society off the hook for proper funding of public education.
As I pondered this more and more, I felt the outrage welling inside of me! Lack of funding has become normal, because teachers, being the empathic and caring folk most of us are, will fill in the gaps when we see no other solution available for our children. There must be other options for teachers besides putting up with scarce resources, or spending our own money. What do you think?
Please contribute your thoughts in a comment below!