I never intended on becoming a teacher. The original plan was to go the university route and become a professor in formative Christianity. While working toward my MA in Religious Studies at USF, I started subbing to make a little extra money. Little did I know nearly 20 years ago that I would find my true calling in the classroom.
My inquisitive nature led me down all sorts of paths. Constantly curious and challenging myself to teach new subjects, I started in Language Arts, switched to Social Studies, moved to Mathematics, served as a New Teacher Mentor, and landed the dream gig with IB Theory of Knowledge. Across those years and disciplines, one ideal remained constant: the inherent dignity and worth of each and every child.
We are what we consume, and this is especially true when it comes to ideas. Our minds are largely shaped by our culture, our biases laid down long before we are aware. But we can combat some of the challenges these facts impose by acknowledging their existence and actively cultivating intellectual humility to overcome them. For me, personally, I’ve fed my mind a steady diet of philosophical works and the world’s sacred texts for the last 25 years, all of which has led me to become the human being and teacher I am today.
I may not know much about anything at all, but I do know this: life is sacred. We are here, now. Each and every day means something if we choose to see it as such. Everything can be pregnant with meaning if we focus on the larger picture of life. So when I walk into the classroom I have always carried these ideas in my heart and mind. My superpower as a teacher is and always will be to get students to believe in themselves, to understand that they, too, possess an inherent dignity simply for having been given the gift of this life. That they are worthy of love.
In the end, it is up to each of us to determine our own worth, our own sense of dignity. Despite the empty promises of Governor DeSantis, the hollow words of Commissioner Corcoran, and the failures of local school districts to support their educators, we do still have a “choice” in how we respond to what has been imposed on so many of us. We can reflect upon our own dignity, our own sense of worth; if it is being honored and valued, then I thank you for being a teacher and wish you all the best. But, if you feel like me, it may be time to walk away, especially if that is an option for you and your family.
Whether or not walking away is temporary or permanent for me remains to be seen. I cannot imagine a life without students, so perhaps I will be called to serve in other ways. Regardless of what the future holds, I will close this final post of 2020 by saying thank you for supporting this project and its education advocacy for the last 3+ years. I hope to return renewed and refreshed in 2021, so until that time I wish you and yours the very best in all that life has to offer. Wake up each day with the realization that it, too, is another gift, another chance to witness the miracle of existence, and to reflect on the fact that you have dignity simply by being alive.
And above all else, know that you are worthy of love, and do your utmost to help others realize this too!
Namaste, Pax Vobiscum, and Much Love,
P.S. – I thought this poem (a parting gift from the SCHS IB Class of 2019) I keep on my work desk would be a fitting close to the sentiment of this open letter to my fellow educators here in Florida and beyond…