“Maybe stories are just data with a soul.”
Learning as a data game. Kids are just numbers. The very thing that makes us human is reduced to a simplistic system of endpoints that either end in a gold star A or a giant red F stamped for fail. Working within a system that could be planned, plotted, graphed, and fit in neat little bubbles and boxes. Bubbles to reduce you to a rating. The amount of work taken to sustain it all eventually sucks the joy from the soul until there is nothing left. Until it’s no longer about learning at all.
Then, empathy walks in.
It’s messy. Unpredictable. Humans are. There’s no number to put to it. There’s no score to attach. There is only feeling, connecting, and being human. It gets uncomfortable, unfamiliar, and isn’t written in a lesson plan. It’s raw, unstandardized, and it’s going to take kids to a level where their thinking is more about changing the world than changing a score. Because in creating solutions, solving problems, and designing ideas that make someone else’s life better, and that person is a real person, a person with a heart and soul… we bring the joy back to learning.
I don’t know why or how joy got separated from learning in the first place. I only know the path back to it. Empathy. It won’t be easy, pretty, simplistic, or fit in a neat little guide from the shelf. You will fall, hurt, disappoint, change, and face facts that uproot your thinking. But, it will be worth it. Because, joy.
Don’t wait for empathy to knock on your classroom door, because it won’t.
Invite empathy in.
Free to download, print, and hang. All art here is licensed under Creative Commons Non-derivative, Non Commercial. No reselling, remaking to sell, or borrowing for commercial purposes without expressed written permission. Thank you!
Whenever I see stories in the media, of people coming down on public education, it’s crushing. My heart is filled with stories of real kids with real lives that I taught many years ago. I think about poverty and what life outside of our school was like for my students. I was fresh out of college and ill-equipped to understand fully what the situation was. But, I learned fast. I knew I had 3 packs of copy paper and curriculum materials that were “on their way” from central office for almost the entire school year. I learned quickly to make do with what I had. Not because I was innovative, but because I had absolutely no other choice. I knew some of my students didn’t have parents. Some were in foster group homes. Some had one meal a day, and it was the one the school served them. There was a fourth grader who brought razor blades into my classroom, a tool he was using to survive on his walk through the neighborhood. There was the boy who looked squarely at me when I was a young pregnant teacher and told me, “I hope your baby dies.” There was the student whose dad was arrested and he came to school anyway, in the same clothes, for the next several days. There was a boy who would run away from school, too many times to count. There were kids who moved, week to week, never attending the same school long enough to connect with a teacher or even other kids. These are just a few things. A tip of the iceberg. Things that left scars on my heart and determination in me to make learning better, because the world needs to be better. Because every kid deserves better. These are just a few of the stories, all true, and many others that are too personal to share.
So when someone attacks public schools, I don’t get it. There are people working, every day, doing things that most wouldn’t imagine. People who spend countless extra hours working with less each year, to make the experience as great as they can for the kids in their classrooms. Not because the kids are their students, but because their hearts are is in it and the kids are part of their hearts.
And to go through that, working so hard, and have the public make comments insinuating that you don’t care, or that you aren’t trying hard enough? Every teacher has THAT day where they ask themselves if they can keep going. The real magic is that they continue because HOPE for a child is in their heart.
So please think before you criticize. The federal government has tied the hands of administrators and teachers, forcing mandates for test scores and creating a focus on the wrong things. No Child Left Behind and all that would follow were a debacle and schools are still reeling from effects. A focus on assembly line factory style learning, while teachers struggle to maintain their creativity and their souls that led them to the classroom in the first place. Hope has been being sold to textbook companies and testing organizations at a high price.
Every single year, teaching is getting harder and harder with more hoops to jump through. Great teachers are being forced out of the classroom. Problems are mounting. Poverty continues and the stories I told above are not unique, they are just a tiny heartbreaking sample of reality. Yet, there is hope. And people, all around our country TEACH ON because that hope is there. Before you criticize, ask yourself if it’s fair for YOU to steal someone else’s hope, and most of all, who are you taking it away from?