A few weeks ago I watched the especially grim cinematic treatment of the life of an educator in the the film Detachment.
It was heavy. Like watching an hour and a half Breaking Bad special episode, but with only a quarter of the dark humor. By the final ten minutes, I was praying for a little Hollywood in the ending, just to leaven the despair.
I have nothing but the highest regard for the teachers who slog it out in our worst public schools. I think I'm a pretty decent teacher, but I honestly don't know that I have it in me to do what they do and deal with what they deal with, day in and day out.
It was a good film though, one that places crisis of modern youth, the state of education in 21st century America, and the challenges and failings of teachers, parents, and kids alike in sharp, harsh relief. Some might argue that it perhaps overstates these things, and they might be right. But I suppose that's what drama does--heightens and even exaggerates reality to make a point.
What I found virtually absent from this somber film--something that I am deeply grateful is not absent from my own experience as a teacher--is hope. I feel blessed to teach in a school where rescue actually seems possible. I feel blessed to still believe 15 years in that I might actually make a difference. I feel blessed to teach daily with a sense of optimism and hope; with the sense that the belief that my students can make it is not just a nice sentiment.
|Some of my students getting ready for an afternoon run. The Annual Buckeye Classic Challenge is what I 'd call a hope-builder. This is my second year challenging my students to train for and run the Buckeye Classic 10K. This year five students have taken up the challenge--two girls and three boys (the two extra girls in the photo above are younger siblings of the official challenge participants. They run with us on the weekday sessions "just for fun."). I'm so impressed with how well they've done so far and I have high hopes for their success on the run itself on November 11.|
Hope and change. Those two words have become loaded in the past four years. They've become a byword and a mockery to some; a bitter disappointment to others. But while hope and change may not mean a whole lot in the world of politics, these twin concepts are indispensable to the teacher. The day that I lose hope, that I stop believing change is possible for my students is the day I need to retire. For now, though I hold high hopes for my students. I see such potential in them, and every time I think of them I can't help but feel optimistic for the futures I know they can have. Often times I think I have to believe for them. It's hard for them to envision what they are truly capable of--I know it was for me when I was their age. So I keep telling them: You are strong. You are smart. You are beautiful. You are capable. You have greatness in you. And they're not just words--I see it all in them. I've come to believe that the greatest enemy of my students' success is hopelessness--the negative belief that change is not possible.
Of course even the highest hopes can be dashed against the vagaries of life. Hope can be snuffed out in an instant in a car wreck or a doctor's diagnosis. A single poor choice can bring a lifetime of consequences, and bright stars can quickly fade when secret sins become known. And so I'm especially grateful that I'm have hope not just for this life, but for something more. I have this Hope that burns within my heart, Hope that outlasts this life and into eternity. As a Christian, even more so than as a teacher,I cannot afford cynicism. Hope of real and permanent change is the foundation of my faith.
So if you ask me "How's that hopey-changey thing working out for you," my response will always be "Pretty well, actually."
"But we all with open faces beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord"
-2 Corinthians 3:18