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Friday, July 24, 2009

Your Professionalism as a Teacher: The Hope Diamond in Your Pocket



The Hope Diamond on display at the National Mu...Image via Wikipedia
I am a heavy sleeper.  As soon as my head hits the pillow, I'm gone.  That is, except during the three weeks before school starts. It is now almost 2 am in the morning here on the East Coast of the USA and I'm wide awake, thinking of all of the things I've got to do... the five projectors that aren't installed YET, the 4 computers that need to be put in service, the countless userids that need to be set up, the patches on the server, my lesson plans -- just so much!

And I'm still excited about all the cool technologies I've learned about this summer (particularly the evolution of the hyperlink:  the hardlink) and opportunities Julie and I've been working on for Flat Classroom(tm).

But, it still remains that I was up until 4 am last night and woke up at 7:30 am this morning and here it is almost 2 am and I'm still up.

Awaiting marriage
I liken this insomnia to that I had in the days prior to when I got married.  I was excited, worried, had so much to do, and filled with anticipation but still stressed.

It will happen and pull together... it always does.

I really want people to understand what it is like to be a teacher. 

Teaching isn't like any other job I've had -- it is a life calling and all-consuming. 

You don't have the teaching profession - it definitely has you.  Interestingly, when I talk to teachers who move to another profession, they usually say, "I got out of teaching."  Other people change jobs or change careers - but why is it that teachers say "I got out of the classroom" or "I got out of teaching?"

 I love the students and love what I do.  And yet, every year, before it all starts, I count the cost.  I find myself asking myself, "How many more years can I do this?"  "Will I hold up?"  "Can I make it?"  Things I ask myself while running but that I never asked myself until I started teaching, even when I was a high powered General Manager at a cell phone company.  I never used to wake up and ask myself, "will I hold up?"  I just went to work and did my job.

Good teachers know that good teaching comes at a price.  Good teachers also know that it is worth every cell of our body that is shed a little early. 

I dream of a day where society truly understands what it means to be a teacher and where every teacher remembers what it means to be a teacher!
Now, being a great administrator is also a calling as in so many other careers.  Every person I know has a "bad teacher" story.  How many have a "good teacher" story?  Parents commiserate over the water cooler about how the teachers can't make little Johnny mind just to go home and let little Johnny get away with, guess what, not minding!

There is a double standard that comes with teaching.  A certain way we have to act.  Here in the US, as my friend Dr. Scott McLeod tells me, teachers literally have a higher standard of behavior and if we do anything that detracts from the learning environment - no matter what it is, we can be  fired for it!

Some people say that the solution to getting more qualified people teaching is to pay more money.  Sure, who doesn't want more money.  And yet, to me, money is something, but here in the state of Georgia I know so many people vying to get into public education because the pay is now almost twice what many private school teachers make! 

Pay a dog catcher a million dollars, and he's still a dog catcher, although a highly paid one.  But, pay a good teacher nothing, and you've still got royalty!  There is a nobility in teaching that truly transcends money.   (Still, I'm not saying teachers don't deserve more - but get my point here!)


There is a nobility in good teaching that I think I and my colleague teachers often forget.  There is something about knowing that the very course of a young life will change as a result of being in my classroom and I pray it will be for the positive.  That some granule of learning will be retained and go on to bless the world in future centuries as a result of who I was to a student (or to you, my readers for that matter) is something I hang on to.

  • Do we as teachers act like teaching is a noble calling?
  • Do we see how important our job is?
  • Do we truly understand that the very future of society itself is very much a product of the classroom environments we create and the love, respect, and caring we show our students?
Teachers are tremendously important.

So many teachers say, "Well, I get it, but I'm not treated like I'm important and they hang their heads."

Look at it this way.  You could be the holder of a great treasure in your pocket - the Hope Diamond.  You've got this diamond in your pocket walking down the street and someone tosses out a pail of nasty gutter water on you.  You're wet - but that doesn't diminish the fact that you've got an infinitely valuable, priceless diamond in your pocket.  You can walk past a group of carousing teenagers who call you surly names and laugh at you for being old -- and yet your fingers still curl around that diamond knowing it is there.  You can even get punched, for goodness sakes, but if you keep your hand tightly around that diamond, you've still got it in your possession.  You are rich and should you decide to, you can truly get that diamond out and enjoy it and share it with others.

Terrible, awful, indignities happen to teachers (and other educators) every single day.  But not one thing can happen to you that can take away the fact that you have a priceless fortune in the form of your called profession.  You, my friend, are nobility.

Now, picture this.  If I get mad at the person who threw moldy rainwater, or the surly kids, or the person who abused me and grab that diamond in my pocket and decide I'm going to get even - I can hurl that diamond at those who condemn and are unkind to me.  I can throw away my diamond and lose it forever.

Unkindnesses come with the streets of life and especially the desks of our classroom!

When we respond in ways that are unprofessional, are unkind, and not becoming to what we possess - we can very possibly throw away the most valuable thing to us -- the nobility of our calling.  Again, we see this on the news, the teachers who is unprofessional, unethical, or promiscuous, who some say tarnish the rest of us.  But just because they threw their Hope Diamond away, doesn't take yours away!

If you're a good teacher, you've got your professionalism as a teacher as part of who you are.  It is in you, around you, and exudes from every pore... if you are a good teacher.  You are rich.  Your calling is noble and you will remain rich as long as you rise above, and keep your treasure.

The most sacred treasure of a teacher is one's professionalism: the gleaming, shiny, sparkling Hope Diamond that no one, no circumstance, and nothing in this world can take away from you but only you can relinquish in the the heat of bad decision, perhaps irretrievably.

Your Hope Diamond is yours

As this temporarily insomniatic  teacher sits her in her easy chair in the den listening to the air conditioner hum and my husband snore, I am encouraged by the visual of holding my own professionalism in my hand - and picturing that professionalism as a Hope diamond.  And when I have the tough days that come, as they will, my goal and dream is to never ever throw the essence of who I am away and to remember that ...

Teaching is the most noble calling on earth.

Act Like it!  Live Like It!  Remember It!

You've got one Hope Diamond -- keep it!
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