La La How The Life Goes On

Teach On, Teacher

Posted on: May 21, 2015

The other day I was helping to set up for the teacher appreciation luncheon at my daughters’ school. It also happened to be the day of the semi-annual lockdown drill. You know the one. The one required since that terrible morning at Sandy Hook. The one all the adults speak of in lilting, nothing-to-see-here tones in front of the children. The one in which we use language like, “a drill to keep you safe in the case of an emergency.” The one about which my 5th grader asks, “What kind of emergency would that be that we’d stay where we are rather than get out?” The one I can’t bring myself to answer her honestly, “It’s a rehearsal for what to do if a gunman enters your school and tries to kill you and your classmates.”

Good lord.

This is where we are and what we’ve come to as a nation. The people trained to educate our children are now being trained to save those lives, even if at the expense of their own. I was struck immediately by the inadequacy of “appreciation.” The realization that no luncheon or gift card or embroidered sweatshirt can adequately express the kind of gratitude you ought to feel for someone who not only is tasked with teaching your child but with shielding her from a hailstorm of bullets if so required.

Law enforcement officers face danger on the job. But that risk is baked into the job description. If you become a cop with the expectation that you will not come into contact with individuals who seek to do you harm with weapons, then you are in serious need of career counseling.  People in the medical profession spend their days around sick people. If you became a physician expecting that your daily vocation would not include contact with germy, sick humans, you would perhaps need to check yourself in for observation. potential diagnosis: stupiditis.

But teachers. There is no expectation as a teacher that your daily life will or should include contact with armed individuals seeking to do you harm. No reasonable expectation that the fate of the lives of the kids in your class might hang in the balance, with you as the fulcrum.

Yet the worst–and best–part of it all is this: They know it and come to work anyway.

It’s a sad statement of our culture and our times that I direct my girls to always listen to their teachers, not just for reasons of basic respect but because a small part of me knows that–god forbid–it might someday save their lives.

So the next time your school committee is faced with the question of whether to raise teacher’s salaries, whether to enter into a contract that compensates teachers for their expertise and efforts. whether the budget can sustain such expenditures? Should they say yes or no?

You remember the totality of the job.

You remember the unpaid work and prep that goes into any given school day.

You remember that this teacher is not only your child’s educator but also her protector.

And you say yes.

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