To My Teaching Colleagues Everywhere – I’m Sorry
As soon as the word escaped my lips I felt guilty. Like I had betrayed all my teaching brothers and sisters. I sold you out. I sullied your name, and our profession. To make matters worse, it was before our students. The children we pour ourselves out for everyday. It was before these impressionable souls that I besmirched teachers everywhere by uttering such a demeaning term. It was dirty, and I want to wash the stain and come clean.
As in “I’m just a teacher.”
No more than.
A lowly rung on the ladder of life’s important roles.
Like I was apologizing for my position.
It was a moment of weakness. Of false humility.
We have been discussing heroes in our class. We asked questions like: What is a hero? What qualities and characteristics make someone a genuine hero? Who are heroes in film or literature? Who are heroes in real life? What heroes are in your life? What heroic qualities do you have?
We discussed firefighters, police officers, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, Malala, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackie Robinson, as well as our parents. Kids were excited and we began planning letters that we would write to our heroes, and questions we had for them.
Then it happened. It came out of nowhere, and I reacted without thinking.
“You’re our hero, Mr. A!”
“Me? I’m just a teacher.”
I cringed saying it. I work tirelessly to teach my students to accept praise; to let me speak words of affirmation into their lives that they can use as they build their foundation of confidence. But I wouldn’t accept theirs.
Not that I wasn’t flattered. I WANT to be in their pantheon of heroes. As their teacher, I BETTER be a hero in their lives. If I’m not, what the heck am I doing each day?
But I grew up believing we do our best and stay humble. We don’t look for praise (it can be such a trap), and we defer it when it comes our way.
That may be true, but in saying that “I’m just a Teacher”, I not only deferred the compliment a child was genuinely trying to offer, but I defiled our profession.
So tomorrow, I will go back to the room and apologize. I will hold my head high and say “Thank you”. I will acknowledge to my students that I want to be their hero, because I’m proud to be a teacher. I’m honored to work alongside colleagues around the globe who show uncommon sacrifice to better the lives of others. I humbled by the women and men who pour out their creative energies to encourage and equip children across the world. We may not wear capes, or tights, or have a glowing “T” emblazoned on our chests, but we are heroic. We may not have fancy titles like “Super” this, “Iron” that or “The Incredible” whatever, but what our title lacks in “je ne sais quoi” it makes up for in substance.
I am a teacher. One who opens hearts and minds to the incredible possibilities before them.
So I will drop the demeaning preface of “just”. Instead, I will proudly celebrate our role.
I accept the title of hero.
I might even get a cape.