The disturbing and heartbreaking loss of so many young lives and the devoted educators in Texas last week put a cloud over many of our celebrations as Memorial Day rang in the unofficial start of summer.
But, this tragic event also gives us all a reason to pause and reflect on the character of the teachers, support staff and administrators who serve the children in schools in Uvalde, Texas and across our country, and why they choose to do so.
More than anything else, last week’s events remind us of the incredible individuals who choose to work in education, and the lengths that they will go to protect the children entrusted to them. As we watched the news reports come in last week, it was not a surprise to hear about the teachers who put themselves between a gunman and their students. It was no surprise that they made it a point to let their students know how much they loved them and valued them. It was not a surprise to hear about the teacher who calmly moved her children to a corner behind a stage knowing that something was going terribly wrong in her school. It was not a surprise that two teachers gave their lives to protect their children.
The staff at Robb Elementary School are typical of the people who choose to be educators. It is important that we acknowledge the efforts of those adults in our schools who work so hard and are willing to do almost anything for the kids they serve — including trying to protect them from violence. As was so clearly illustrated in Uvalde, Texas the vast majority of people who choose to work with your children in America’s schools care deeply about kids, and, more than any profession, go over and above on their behalf.
The next time you see your child’s teacher, someone from your school’s front office, or any of the many school and school district employees that contribute to your child’s education, let them know that their work is appreciated. We should be grateful every day for the incredible amount of time teachers, administrators and support employees devote to their jobs, and for the personal sacrifices that come with being a public school educator. We know all of them sacrifice time with their families, or forgo their personal well-being to make sure your children are learning, that your schools are well-run, and that your children are cared for. We also know that they love the children they are privileged to serve, and that every one of them would not hesitate to stand in harm’s way to protect one of your kids or their colleagues. Few other professionals are as self-sacrificing as educators. For non-educators it is sometimes mind boggling to consider the things educators do and sacrifice regularly. For them, it is simply doing what’s right and what they love.
Over the last week we’ve heard family, co-workers and pundits talk about how important it is that we become a kinder, more gentle and caring people. In the craziness that has become a high stakes, high accountability profession, we need to become kinder and more gentle in how we go about the business of making sure kids are learning. Take time to reflect on how we can take a more kinder and positive approach in our day-to-day interactions with others, and what we can do to help make our schools better places for staff and students so that our children get the best education possible in a school that provides a nurturing and safe space for kids to learn.
There are a lot of people, particularly elected officials, who’ve questioned and demeaned educators over the course of the last few years. They do so at their own peril, and ours. Only voters can make them pay the price for their insolence. In spite of them, or maybe even because of them, educators continue to show up every day at our schools and put their bodies between bullets and their students when no one else will.
It’s long past time to show them the respect they deserve and earned.