Marginalization of our Heroes

Respect begins at home. It bothers me how often that we allow the attitude of our society that worships youth to effect our opinions of the heroes among us.

Sprinters are great. They run really quickly for a very short amount of time. But there is something about the Iron Man. And when you have a person like my friend Scott Rigsby (the first double amputee to run the iron man and a fellow alumnus of Westwood Schools) then, you've got a hero.

Who are Teacher Heroes?
I am writing this to teachers. We have these heroes among us.

I think heroes are all teachers who behave nobly, but especially those who have been teaching for more than 20 years.

Heroes who work hard to bring new techniques into the classroom, who manage their classes with an iron hand and warm heart. They are here. People like Maria Knee, kindergarten teacher.

The Faces in the Faculty Lounge
It is so great to welcome new faces to teach among us. We need them.We need their ingenuity, their energy, their creativity.

But let's not forget the faces that have always been there. The heroes.

  • Why do people have to die for all of their students to get together and reminisce about their greatness?
  • Why do they have to have some major medical incident for us to think twice about their service?
  • Why do we wait to say thank you?

Teachers, I am calling upon you to teach with your life.

Yes, the recent Los Angeles incident where librarians were interrogated in the basement makes me angry. (Librarians are teachers too, if you don't think so, you don't know good librarians.)

Recently, when I offered a critique of Kevin Mitnick's new book, someone tweeted to Kevin,

"That's alright, everyone has heard of Kevin Mitnick. No one has heard of Vicki A. Davis."

Yes, they are right. Because for everyone to hear about Vicki A. Davis, I'd have to cheat on a test, sleep with a student, or shoot somebody. Face it, the teachers who become famous are usually (not always) those who do horrible things. It is a lot easier to do one awful thing than to do 100 great things every day for 80 years.

Respect for Teachers Starts with Teachers
This is our profession, friends. It is time we take it back by giving each other the respect we deserve. Let's start with the heroes among us.

When I was in Evansville, Indiana and asked how many of the teachers had been teaching for more than 20 years, I was astounded. At least 1/4 of the room raised their hands.

Do you know why these people are such heroes? They are living through some of the most dramatic pedagogical changes in the classroom in the history of classrooms. They are also living through times that require us to reexamine our spending. Stress is an understatement. While all their friends are retiring, they are still teaching.
Elizabeth Walling Former  Keyport Teacher
Mrs Walling Now Retired After 40 years as a Teacher. Releases A Monarch Butterfly At The 100th Anniversary Of The East Keyport School , Now The Site Of The Keyport Senior Center. Photo from harmonica pete

6 Ways to Recognize Our Heroes
Here are 5 ways I am asking you to recognize the heroes among us. Add yours in the comments:
  1. Recognize the senior AND the new. When principals recognize the new teachers, they should also recognize those who have been teaching for more than 20 years. Recognize longevity not just newness.

  2. Create a wall of honor. - What about having the photos of teachers on your wall who have served your school for a certain amount of time. Have an assembly to recognize them. From now on, when they hit that amount of time, have a special time to recognize what they are doing. Do it again at 30 years, 35, etc. Take time to remind everyone of the importance of dedication. You could also do this wall on your website.

  3. Say thank you. Thank teachers who have been there a long time. Tell them how you feel about them as a fellow teacher.

  4. Help them. Good teachers aren't perfect teachers but they do learn new things. If you know that a senior teacher wants to try something new, take the time to help them. Encourage them by teaching them.

  5. Listen. I've learned some great things from my fellow teachers. I'm hitting my 10th year of teaching this year and still I feel like I have a lot to learn from the literature teacher who is in the room next to me (and also taught me how to write.)
  6. Thank your teachers who made a difference. Take time to thank those who helped you in your career and inspired you to be a teacher. Do they know? If they are no longer here, put flowers on their grave. Tell the world with your actions that teachers are noble and worthy of respect because we are!
Of course there are people who are "biding their time" or others think "should retire." Perhaps they are disheartened because they feel unneeded.

The greatest tragedy for aging teachers is the feeling that you no longer matter and that the sacrifices you've made were wasted. You may see a stalwart of the profession, but if you take time to talk to them, often they wonder if it was worth it. If they really did make a difference or if they imagined it.

Respect starts with us. We must all behave in noble ways. We must also treat each other with respect and this should start with the heroes among us.

I will never discount someone because of their age, in fact, anyone who can thrive and survive as a teacher for more than 20 years deserves a medal, a crown, and a million dollars. But that isn't happening, so let's give them what we can give them-- it is free -- let's generously give them our respect and gratitude.

Remember your noble calling, teachers.

Noble teachers never marginalize the heroes of the profession, we elevate them.
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