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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

River of Doubt: The Only Good Educator is a Dead Educator?



From left to right (seated): Father Zahm, Rond...
From left to right (seated): Father Zahm, Rondon, Kermit, Cherrie, Miller, four Brazilians, Roosevelt, Fiala. Photo taken in 1914. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I'm reading a completely engrossing account of Theodore Roosevelt's expedition up the River of Doubt in South America (See The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey), where he almost died, but made incredible strides forward for science. I've been soaking up biographies of great men and women since my friend Angela Maiers challenged me to find my "dream team."

"You become most like the five people you ponder the most, who will those people be?" she said.
When set back, Theodore Roosevelt always went into nature to meet some great challenge or danger. But not only did he go and hunt (as he did in Africa), his purpose in South America was to advance science.

I think that there is a big lesson to take from "Teddy's" life. When beset by struggle and setbacks, set your mind on another great task and get busy. Life is short, you have things to do and wallowing in sadness is not one of us.

If you're alive, you've experienced setbacks. If you haven't experienced a setback, I would guess you either have memory loss or you're not very old, because in my own life, even when I was a child, I had personal setbacks and hurts - not being invited to a birthday party, being made fun of, being left out. These are all things that are part of life.

Little Trickles of Doubt.


The last book I finished was Mother Teresa's "No Greater Love" - another great book. She said something that has stuck with me,
"May I be so humble that I cannot be insulted or put on a pedestal." 
While such words may not be for many of you, they are perfectly for me. If I spend my life waiting for someone to say I'm so great -- what a sad life. Life isn't about being praised by men or women -- such praise is very temporary and quickly changes tenor when the tide goes out, leaving behind, just a river of doubt flowing from the inland of your heart.

My biggest river of doubt I know now comes flowing out of the tv every time I look at the "news."

Seeing the media feeding frenzy like the Pirana's in Roosevelt's River of Doubt, upon my friend Suzie Nestico, based upon the word of a unscrupulous lawyer has told me all I need to know. The media is in search of a sensational story and doesn't care about reporting the truth.
Suzie Nestico and me at PETE&C in 2011. I am proud to
say I'm her friend.

Right now, my friend Suzie Nestico, surely must be experiencing a River of Doubt. She's a great educator and I've known her at least five years (likely longer.) I was in India with her as she stood between one of my students and an overly aggressive street vendor and turned down the order and walked on. She loves kids. My friend Suzie is now a principal... at Mt. Carmel Elementary in Pennsylvania where a child threatened another one at a bus stop it turned out to be a "hello kitty bubble gun" according to the news media.

I wonder how did it get from the bus stop to the front office? I'm guessing another child had to be scared somewhere in there? Where are the parents of the other children who (obviously) complained?


I refuse to ever again let the media try educators in the court of public opinion without giving the educator the benefit of the doubt. If a story is ridiculous, it is likely a LIE and watching the video of the lawyer Robin Ficker (also a famous NBA heckler)  and reading his bio on Wikipedia, I can't tell you the revulsion I feel for the entire situation. Ficker also lost his license in Maryland for a period of time for misconduct.

I'm ashamed that the news media would take the word of such a man and the desire for a sensational story over the integrity and longstanding history of a woman like Suzie Nestico. A man who craves the media over a woman who shows up every day helping kids. I know Suzie and I know she wouldn't "grill" anything but chicken on the stove. (The lawyer said she "grilled" the child for 3 hours, a fact I find preposterous, although, I don't know the other side, which is just the point.)


The media is going to write entire articles based upon this man's version of what a five year old says happened.  The early articles are clear to state that the bubble gun was not with the child. In fact, when I first told my husband about it, he couldn't even understand the words "bubble gun" and thought I said gun or bubble gum. Is a five year old going to clearly communicate? How did the other children feel about the threat?

So, then people descend upon Suzie, sending her threatening mail and taking a picture of her and her child and calling her a slut? (I have left the blogger in question a comment, on his "about" page which I doubt will be published. I've left comments on the hate filled idiotic people who profess to have the same faith I do, but if you take a descent into debauchery and look at the comments on any of the articles I've linked to, understand that the ugliness there doesn't represent the Christian faith I cherish.) Really? What does sex have to do with this incident anyway? Do they call men a "gigolo" when they are at the center of a controversy?

I say according to the news media, because the only time I got to talk to Suzie last weekend, she choked back sobs telling me she wasn't allowed to say her side but the inaccuracies were killing her.

 She was also very afraid, I know fear when I hear it.

A river of doubt.

She must be feeling it. She's given her life in love to children and she gets this? There's a verse in Proverbs that says you believe one side of the story, until you hear the other. Well, no one has heard the other.

Principals, administrators, and teachers are maligned all of the time because parents and students are not bound by the confidentiality that we must cherish. Our job is to protect the privacy of the children, even to our own detriment.

Suzie, I'm sure is having doubts, but I don't. I know that there is another side to this story. 

  • I don't doubt my friend for a moment that she tried to protect the children under her care. 
  • I don't doubt that she found out what happened at the bus stop because another child was scared and went home and told Mom and Dad.
  •  I don't doubt that there is a bigger story and I KNOW that Suzie doesn't grill children and wouldn't do that for 3 hours. Now, it might have been 3 hours from dropoff to when Mom and Dad could be reached about what had happened, but I'm quite sure that the child wasn't "grilled" as Ficker alleges.

A river of doubt.

Educators, you are heroes. Maybe one day my friend Suzie will be able to talk about this and we'll be ashamed of ourselves. By then, the media will have moved on and not care about righting the wrong they have done. This Ficker lawyer will be on to another educator or person that will allow him to get on TV, because that seems to be what he likes the most.

But my friend Suzie will know that I publicly told her that I know that her side is there and I won't form an opinion until both sides are known. It isn't my job to pass judgement anyway, that is the Boss' job.

The media thinks the only good educator is a dead educator.

The educators at Sandy Hook were praised for their sacrifice. Stepping in the way of the bullet. They are heroes.

But must we die for people to know our dedication? Must our love be written upon our dead faces and cold hands for people to know it is there? Surely not.

If my friend Suzie hadn't investigated, and a child had brought a gun to school and shot her classmates, she would have been vilified.

My friend Suzie did investigate, and it turns out it was a bubble gun and now she is villified.

But if a child brought a gun to school and she jumped in front of it and took the bullet and died, she'd be a hero.

Her love is written in her silence. She cherishes the confidentiality of the family who is going after her and has chosen the right course, silence. The fact that she hasn't come out to tell her side of the story, even to me, her friend. I don't know the facts, but I know Suzie and what has and is happening to her is wrong.

I'm not going to go down this river of doubt.

I am sure that even though the media only reports bad things that happen in education that I will not go down that river. My calling is noble and so is yours. If my passion to love kids, protect them, and do my job to the best of my ability leads to being blasted on the front page of the newspaper or on the news, then so be it.

And to the fools who blindly believe that the media actually reports "stories" based in fact and all sides of the story - particularly when education is involved and one party is obligated to silence and confidentiality - those fools who take that story and write hate mail or make hateful phone calls to the educator involved -- you are despicable.

As for me, I don't know the facts in the story, I do admit that. But it isn't for me to judge. It is, however, for me to speak out at a great injustice happening to educators in the media. I don't understand why the media would believe anything this particular lawyer would say anyway.

This is now the fourth post I've written in the last two weeks, the others were far too emotional and will just languish in my blogger drafts, but one I am determined to post. I will post it today.

As for me, I refuse to traverse the river of doubt. We are on a dangerous journey, no doubt. We are dealing with a toxic society that has confused news with reality television and a people of itching ears that can only be scratched with bad news. There are some very mean, unkind, sick people out there. I've gotten my letters too.

But we will not doubt for one moment that our work is not important.

Teaching is important.

We won't wait for others to respect us - we will respect ourselves.
We will be unafraid to speak out that educators should get the benefit of the doubt because they aren't allowed to tell their side of the story.
We will call out lawyers who make a life destroying the careers and lives of others.

One day, my friend will tell her story. But until then, I hope that you'll join me and #supportsuzie - there are two sides to every story and hers isn't being told - I have no doubt.

When mainstream media becomes infected with the cess of society's cravings for another sensational story, the naive will be swept away with the refuse as their minds become tainted with discontent and anger, without an ability to discern truth. Ignorance isn't bliss... ignorance is the bane of civilized society.

I hope that we will learn from this. When you hear a sensational "story" about what "that educator" has done realize that there are two sides to the story and one day "that educator" might be you. The words you say today or think today about this situation will come back to haunt or bless you when it is your turn.

I also want to point out that getting "on the news" DOESN'T END YOUR CAREER - not always.

There are worse things than being lambasted in the news. You could be a coward. You could be a bully. You could use children for your personal gain. You could forget your nobility as a teacher and get down about your chosen profession.

Get out of that river of doubt. Remember your noble calling, teacher.

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