Don't You Quit

It is time to lift each other up. No one else will do it. If we do not praise each other, if we do not remember that we are a community stronger in our numbers than alone, than we lose. Our numbers are beginning to fall as it is. All over the country the numbers of people entering teacher preparatory programs are diminishing. You can see it here. Those in the profession warn others away, and even our first Nobel Prize winner, Nancy Atwell, told her audience that they should not become teachers. It is too hard, too unforgiving, too under-compensating. There is reason in all of this. But those of us who are already teachers, are in it. We are here, and more than ever, we need to remember why. So let me remind you.

Teachers are the absolute best people I know. They are generous, giving up free time to talk to any student at any time. They will answer phone calls, respond to emails, edit student work, cover classes and make copies for absent teachers, even when they know there are a million other things that need doing at that exact moment, all equally urgent. They will do it all for no extra compensation. They will do it all knowing full well that they make the same salary 15 years into their job, as many professionals do just starting out. You would be lucky to meet one person who is as good, as understanding, or as open in any other job. I know this to be true.
Perhaps they are crazy. Perhaps they should be fighting and refusing to do the extra pieces that those above them keep demanding. Perhaps they should teach their classes, close their doors, and watch the clock. Isn't that the perception anyway?

But the teachers I know, and I consider myself blessed to know so many, live and breathe their jobs. We raise other people's children along with our own, and know that each one of them carries a piece of us wherever they go. That's our compensation. We know that we are creating and molding and changing and developing the people who will lead our country, as well as those who will be its backbone and brain in our own lifetime. We are exposing them to ideas and dreams and characters and passions they might not find if not for us. That's our compensation. We are fighting for them when others will not. We are fighting their apathy, their anger and their ignorance, and replacing it when energy, hope and knowledge, and we are doing it even when we are at our lowest. Because we know that when we are not here, there is no substitute for us. There may be a body in our chair, but that body is not the one whom our kids rely on. We know that, and we worry about it every moment that we are not present. Because this job allows for no true days off.

This does not mean that we should not fight. This does not mean that we should not demand, loudly, that we deserve more because we have earned it. We should yell at the top of our voices, united in our volume, that test scores are numbers, and numbers are not the faces we teach, or the imaginations we spur, or the hope we inspire. They are only numbers and they change with the day. We should question. All the time. We should question the evaluators who have not stood in our shoes. We should question the ratings based on seven minutes of an evaluation that someday may determine our pay, or our "worth." We should remember that every day we tell our students to question the world around them, and we should do no less.

So, teachers, feel free to get angry at the changes coming our way. Rage at the initiatives, and the meetings, and the lack of understanding of all you do, which comes at you from all sides. But know that your colleagues all over the country stand with you as you push and pull and work those students. We are here too. Let us fuel your imagination when you feel empty, as my colleagues do every day for me. Let us be your backbone when you don't feel like you have the strength to stand up to one more parent, or one more principal. Reach out to us.

But don't you quit.