The Real Tragedy is Not Us

The last week has been an interesting one as far as teachers go.

First of all, there’s the ongoing lunacy coming out of Wisconsin, where union members are being threatened with losing their rights, and maybe worse, their jobs. Public employees are all in the line of fire there, but perhaps no group is more endangered than teachers. I’ve been following the situation to some extent, and particularly am worried about teachers like this, who are too damn good and important to be in the crosshairs.

There was also the incredible amount of publicity for P.S. 22’s chorus. They performed at the Oscars Sunday night, and anyone who hadn’t heard about them before discovered their magic. Of course, they wouldn’t be nearly as famous – or as good – without the guidance of their teacher Mr. B. Can you imagine a world without him as a teacher? We would be deprived of their angelic voices and passionate performances, but far worse, future students would never know the thrill of music that Mr. B.’s students learn.

Incidentally, right before that Oscars performance, a tweet from the NY Times shared the news that the NYC Dept. of Education released a list of projected layoffs by district, school, and license. Ironic, I thought, considering it happened just as one of the jewels in the DOE’s crown, P.S. 22, was set to wow the world.

To say the least, the last week has been a mixed bag for us all.

I read blogs like Mrs. Ripp’s, and I wonder how someone facing so much adversity and uncertainty is able to walk into her classroom everyday and still give 110% of herself to her students. And I wonder how much different the lives of her students would be without her.

I think about Mr. B. and his love for his students, and I wonder if push ever came to shove whether he’d be playing his guitar on the unemployment line instead of his classroom. And I wonder how drearily silent the halls of P.S. 22 would become in his absence.

And I think about myself and my colleagues, some of whom are so stressed out by everything that’s going on that they talk about just walking away if they could find a job that would provide enough income to support their families. Personally, on the best days, I envision myself someday becoming a principal (in a much different educational climate of course), but on the worst, I catch myself thinking about getting out as soon as my pension is set.

There are some lousy, rotten people working in the schools, for sure.

But there are also people who became teachers because they wanted to impact kids, change the world, and perform every other cliche you can imagine – and most importantly, they believed they could! And now, either by budget cuts or bureaucracy, either by necessity or choice, they’re being pushed away. It’s a tragic scenario for them.

But it’s the kids who’ll suffer the most.


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