Hesitance. Trepidation. Questions of worth. This was not the internal response I expected when I received a team jersey for a running club that I am a member of. Yet as I unsealed the package and stretched out the singlet, admiring the various colors and the stylish team logo, I felt myself resistant to putting it on.
I felt the pressure of expectations. I felt the responsibility to carry on a legacy. It is an honor and a privilege to bear the team name and logo across my chest, and I don’t want to diminish their reputation. A reputation has been earned by scores of runners over the past several years who have staked audacious goals, put in the intense training, and fostered the courage to dare greatly.
It reminded me of the same pride I felt the first time I placed the lanyard around my neck that bears witness to another legacy. A quarter-century of unparalleled dedication to excellence in education.
My school i.d. badge.
Sure, it has the bar code that allows me in the door when I swipe it each morning. Sure, it sports a less-than-flattering picture of me several pounds heavier and not nearly as fashionable as I tend to dress these days. But it holds so much more.
This badge is a badge of honor. It bears witness that I have the honor, privilege, and awesome responsibility of impacting the future generation of our nation. I am tasked with instilling a love for learning in the wonderful children I lead. I am entrusted with molding courage, unleashing creativity, and igniting empathy in the minds and hearts of our precious youth.
This badge also testifies to my membership in an amazing legion of individuals who have set aside other possible career pursuits, all in the name of loving and nurturing kids. They do it whether they are embraced and appreciated by grateful parents and maturing students, or if they are mocked and taken for granted by the public at large. They pour themselves out, not for the high status of respect that our nation once gave educators long ago; not for the flexibility of summers spent taking professional development courses and planning how to improve their instructional practices; they do it because they are compelled. Called. An internal edict that tells them that this is what they were created to do. This is the moment they were made for.
Each time I place that lanyard over my shoulders, displaying teacher identification, I am reminded of what an awesome calling teaching is. I don’t think about testing. I don’t consider political mandates or teacher evaluation systems. In this badge of honor, I just see my students, and my colleagues. In this badge of honor, I see our legacy.