It’s well reported that the gateway drug to harder drugs is the (ostensibly) less dangerous drug marijuana.
Weed, as anti-drug crusaders, like to say, is the siren seductress which leads unwitting tokers towards the rocky shores of shipwrecked doom. And though they oversimplify matters a bit with this argument, I gotta admit, there are probably very few heroin addicts that didn’t start off smokin’ the wacky tabacky.
Pot is a gateway. Hard to argue.
But what is the siren seductress for teachers in this day and age? What is the gateway substance which almost always can be traced to a teacher’s bad professional place?
Discouragement and demoralization. Those are the emotions which, like pot, often are the valet opening up the door to future train wrecks.
And the forces available to lure educators down the rocky shores of discouragement and demoralization are everywhere.
When I think about it, I realize that teachers don’t just become bitter Lemon educators who ought to be booted out of our classrooms for their professional patheticness. Nope. Instead, it often begins with high hopes that are crushed, fond aspirations which are squelched, lofty aims and noble goals that are bulldozed by the forces of bureaucracy, tomfoolery, politics, apathy and so on.
Really, I’ve never met a new teacher in my life that wasn’t wide-eyed, bushy-tailed and eager to do the best work they could serving the needs of the kids.
And all the best teachers I know that are veterans in this field still show that same spark. Perhaps a bit of the “wet behind the ears” aspect of their lives has been dried off, but that happens in every profession, from NBA ballers to Wall Street traders to Young Adult novelists.
Let’s be honest… discouragement and demoralization, when left unchecked are cancer. They will eat at and destroy everything in a teacher’s professional path. Eventually.
Teachers aren’t afraid of hard work. And they aren’t afraid of monumental challenges. But suck the hope from their hearts that they can make a difference, be a part of the change they want to see, have a positive influence on a young person’s life, the school’s community, the system at large and so on, and that’s when things starts to go downhill.
Becoming discouraged and demoralized is the great classroom enemy which needs to be avoided. After all, a teacher who is characterized by “belief” is usually also characterized by things like energy, industriousness, and work-ethic. But steal an educator’s faith and you have shorn Sampson’s hair. They phone it in, do work at the minimum threshold and bide their time to Friday or the next holiday break.
Discouragement and demoralization might not seem lethal at first, but in my opinion they are clearly the quicksand of our professional lives.
Keep your attitude hopeful and optimistic for if you allow the discouraging and demoralizing side of this job to take root, weed will grow.
A weed that can be the gateway to a much worse place.
It’s hard to go down to the cellar if you never enter through the cellar door.