Like most folks, I struggle with many matters of the teaching spirit. Sometimes I like to think it’s because I am an urban educator and things are especially rough in so many ways on the kids, teachers, administrators, parents and so on in communities like the one where I work. Then, when I travel and speak and talk and listen, I realize, what we do is hard… it’s hard all over no matter where you work and what you seek to accomplish.
It’s that simple. The issues revolving around American education are complex, unwieldy, illogical, and even blatantly absurd. But without a positive outlook, a hopeful spirit, a daily feeding of what’s good and right and worthy and noble about what we do and the direction we are headed, it becomes all too easy to slip into the quicksand of educational negativity. Some people spend their whole careers in this pit. Me, I refuse to. This is why I recognize that my greatest battle is often the battle against cynicism because if I am jaded and hopeless and negative and defeatist then there really is no way that I can see that I can be the best teacher I want/need/hope to be for my kids… because that stuff is both toxic and contagious.
Ultimately, being a teacher is hard. Being a good teacher is harder and being an exceptional teacher requires a sweating of the soul. This is not to say I am an exceptional teacher; this is only to say that I aspire to be one. And if I do, I believe that having hope, being positive, and remaining optimistic is an integral ingredient. Am I Pollyannish? People have accused me of being so. Then again, if I don’t believe I can make a real difference, then why should I believe that anyone else can make one? And conversely, if I do believe that I can make a difference, why shouldn’t I believe that others can as well.
But oh, sometimes it is really, really tough. And some days, the wolves howl with extra spit and venom at my door.