Teaching–It is life or death

I’m writing this blog post from about 40,000 feet above the ground aboard an airplane. I’ve flown more this summer than usual (which is easy considering that I don’t usually fly). As I sit in the airplane, I am reminded that I’ve entrusted my life to the people who manufacture, maintain, and fly airplanes for a living. One mistake on the part of any of these people can be the difference between life and death—mine and the other passengers’ as well. I breathed a sigh of relief as I reflected that one mistake on my part doesn’t mean the difference between life and death. “Actually no part of my job is life and death,” I thought.
It didn’t take much further reflection for me to realize just how wrong that assumption about teaching is. Teaching is life and death—every day. Perhaps you’re thinking about the few unfortunate chemistry labs-gone-wrong that leave students injured, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m referring to the ability that education has to change lives. As educators, we know the value of the product that we’re selling (at least we knew it at one point in our careers). We know that education has the ability to provide opportunities for students that they won’t have without it. We know that education is essential in breaking the cycle of generational poverty. We know that education can lead to opportunities and life choices that may actually make a life or death difference to some of the students we teach.
If education is really life or death for the students we teach, then we’ve got to approach it that way. We’ve got to run headlong into the fire the way a trained firefighter rushes into a burning building. We have to do everything possible to reach all of our students. No firefighter would ever leave a child in a burning building because the child didn’t want to be carried out. We can’t allow our students to make the choice to remain uneducated through the K-12 educational system, either.
I’m not saying that this is easy. I’m also not saying that I’m a perfect example of reaching and teaching every student. I am reminding all of us (including me) of the importance of our jobs as educators. As you start to prepare for this upcoming school year (that will be very demanding already), what will you do to remind yourself of the importance of your job. Will you be that teacher that Rita Pierson talks about when she quotes a student who says, “You believed I was something when deep-down I knew I wasn’t?”
For more inspiration, check out Rita Pierson’s TED talk here https://www.ted.com/talks/rita_pierson_every_kid_needs_a_champion?language=en .

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About tkslibrarian

Middle school science teacher--hoping to inspire wonder
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