ONE WORLD

Ross Stapleton:  “A Planet Full of Terrific People.”  What’s so threatening about that?  Enjoy these five minutes.

BEST SUPER BOWL AD 2013

James Musters: “I thought this Renault commercial might amuse you.”

☞  Not sure they will actually pay millions to air this on the next Super Bowl, but it would get people talking about Renault more than they normally do.

IN PRAISE OF TEACHERS

John Leeds (in the wake of the Newtown tragedy): 

Sorry to write to you about so sad a subject.  Although I’m a middle school teacher, I’ve had occasions to spend days in schools just like the one where the tragedy occurred.  I’m not surprised the teachers and school personnel were out to save their students, even at risk of their own lives. Some in America portray teachers as looking to do less, as babysitters, as feckless workers who could not make it elsewhere in society-as people who aren’t dedicated to the ideal of work. But that’s not true for the majority of teachers, most of whom are scooped up by suburban systems as in Newtown, but who also find their way into the inner city and other poor areas. A friend who has taught at Hopi and Navajo says that teachers on reservations, the true third-world nations within the U.S, are either the best of the best or the worst of the worst. They come to poor areas to teach because they are either extremely dedicated, or, as society has stereotyped, because they truly can’t make it elsewhere.

I think of that elementary school, a typical one, run and staffed by women, perhaps the lone male adult as a custodian. Sometimes the other male is the principal, though less so these days. The women tend to be young, as the system saves money hiring new teachers when retiring teachers leave. As baby boomers have been retiring in the past 7-10 years, the elementary schools are dominated more and more by women in their 20s. These are women with great talent, strengths and dedication. Women who could not imagine facing their own lives if they had not done their utmost to save the lives of the young innocents.

What is strength? I know well as a male in our culture, I will impress few with my raw power by telling them I teach, especially when I explain I don’t teach high school or college. And yet we know that one can’t be stronger than those women were the day of the shooting. It is the kind of pure strength that is the height of human essence. And yet that strength was always there in the calm times, unrecognized, because it didn’t fit society’s concept of strength. I tell you I see that same strength in other teachers I know, at every level of teaching. One never knows until confronted with the choice, but I believe most, if not almost all, would lay down their lives in similar fashion if forced to by circumstances.

Every time there is a shooting like this, and many times in between, I’ve thought about how I take my life in my hands at work in a way I never realized I would when I became a teacher. Sometimes on a fire drill, I wonder just what is waiting outside and say a little prayer. I wish I could say I look forward to going in this Monday, but I don’t. But I know that once class starts normally, we will begin anew, and the worst that will happen is a bored student or a tired teacher.

Remember Saving Private Ryan? The platoon leader, savvy and shrewd, turns out to be a high school teacher. That’s what all the good teachers are made of: leadership, courage, sacrifice, the ability to motivate by example and with human understanding. So, I am so tired of hearing people dump on the profession. Everyone sees how brave these women were at the moment of crisis. When will they realize that this is truly the way of the teacher? I guarantee you the surviving teachers and staff – and in this let me mention school secretaries and custodians, who are just as brave and dedicated – will do whatever they can to help their students process the grief and horror and to move on, even as the teachers themselves attempt to process and grieve.

For teachers like this, being a teacher is somewhat like being an older family member and a village elder rolled into one.  Teaching students permeates the soul.   Teaching surpasses a vocation and becomes a way of being.   Long before the Sandy Hook staff was confronted by stark reality, the adults there were focused on protecting, saving and building lives, and they will continue to do so, as will teachers everywhere.

 

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