Saturday, August 9, 2014

You Have Seen

Dear Jennie,

Today you're well-rested, having just returned from a relaxing getaway with your incredible husband. The new school year is looming and you're feeling a little stressed, beginning to make lists of all that must be done. But the stress you're feeling now is nothing compared to how you'll feel next Sunday night, when you know that 75 students will be entering your classroom the next day expecting great things of you. The stress will be even greater as you begin to prepare them for the high-stakes testing that will determine so much of their future - and yours. The anxiety will mount, the exhaustion will set in, and around February of this year, you'll begin to grumble. So I'm writing to you now, before all of it starts, to remind you that the stress, anxiety, and exhaustion are all a privilege. Really, they are.

You see, Jennie, how have you forgotten? You've traveled to other countries where education isn't a given. You have seen with your own eyes children carrying their own chairs to a makeshift classroom in a tin building well over 100 degrees.

You have seen their kitchen, empty but for a few small bags of beans and a jug of oil. You have heard the school leaders say that the kerosene is almost gone and there is no money for more.

You have listened to lessons being taught in another language to children who have to pay to be there.

You have snuggled with a student who had never seen you before but held on for dear life.

You have seen the reality that education will be their only way out.

You have seen students smiling just at the chance to be at school. You have seen classrooms that are not Pinterest-inspired but are instead - and more importantly - freedom-providing.

So, Jennie, when education in America seems overwhelming both to you as a teacher and to your children as students, remember that it's education in America! It is not held under a bridge, it is not dangerous for your daughter to attend, and it is not financially impossible. 

Is it perfect? Of course not. But compared to what you've seen and where you've been, Jennie, it's a dream come true. A dream that even today, non-American children are chasing by illegally riding trains into this country. A dream that today, in 2014, little girls around the world don't have to opportunity to pursue. A dream that today, most people take for granted. Don't be one of them, Jennie. Don't be a grumbler. Don't fall into the trap that only complains about education in America. Be a part of making it better. And be a person who remembers just how incredible it really is.