It has rained for three consecutive days, saturating the parched earth and slowly coating the pavement, gently showering the oil film from the roadways. The dense fog envelops me as I cautiously drive to work and listen intently to Bishop T.D. Jakes talk about Destiny.
I’ve listened to his book in its entirety – replaying certain chapters each day. His poignant insight into the call on our lives can’t be fully ingested in one sitting so I’m savoring it. This morning, his words resonated with me as I prayed en route to work. I asked God to bridle my tongue when I should be listening and to give me the words to speak to any occasion or situation that I might encounter. At those moments in my day, I’m wearing two hats—a Listener and an Encourager. I also pray for an even temper. One ill-timed outburst can ruin a relationship that took years to build, and I don’t want to destroy things; instead, I want to build things, so I choose to don the hat of a Builder. As I near my exit, I always say thank you for my life and the opportunity to work with children –something I was destined to do. For those moments, I humbly wear the hat of a Servant Leader.
We all serve in some capacity, but the work of an educator is an incredibly heavy cross to bear. We are given very little and expected to produce a whole lot. We’re expected to wear many hats during the course of any given day (and sometimes within the same class period): teacher, preacher, counselor, nurse, interventionist, mediator, disciplinarian, sage, magician, miracle worker, entertainer, robot, dietician, lobbyist, mom, and dad. In addition to the various roles we play, we also face myriad challenges – one being lack of respect for the profession. We live in a world that values professional athletes more than educators. Think about it. When was the last time you stood in line to buy your favorite teacher’s jersey or watched new teachers get drafted into the profession on prime time TV or heard a teacher yell “Show me the money!” to her agent on the receiving end of that command. The answer is NEVER — except in parody form.
We don’t need that kind of pomp and circumstance, but we do need to be recognized and regarded as sowers who plant and nurture seeds each year that have the potential to grow into leaders, scientists, attorneys, prima ballerinas, designers, and of course — teachers. We need more teachers to continue sowing so that there is never a fallow period in education. I know that not all seeds will fall on good soil, but this should not deter us from doing the work that’s needed for growing lifelong learners.
I was lurking on Facebook last night and saw a video that warmed my heart. It’s about assessing the needs of children and filling the voids that exist. It’s a lesson about serving that sometimes begins at home but doesn’t happen often enough. It’s about sowing seeds of leadership now so that we’ll have a bumper crop of leaders at harvest time. I’m honored to know a few of these dynamic teachers in the video. They wake up each day, as so many of us do, to fight the good fight and teach children that the The Leader in Me can also be the leader in you. These teachers are truly making a difference in the lives of kids in my small home town. They, too, are fulfilling their Destiny. They’re growing leaders.
There’s a saying that I used to hear people in other professions use as a means of insulting teachers.
Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.
To those poor, misguided souls I’d ask five questions:
- Who taught you to walk and talk? Most would say “My parents.” I’d say “Bravo! Good answer!” Our parents are our first teachers. They prepare us for the miracle workers we get to meet at the age of five or six.
- Who taught you to read and write? Some would say, “I already knew how to read and write when I entered first grade.” To that I’d say, “You’re the exception—not the rule.” Teachers help you to write letters of the alphabet side-by-side, teach you their respective sounds, and ask you to blend them over and over each day until you’re able to read.
- Who inspired you to become an artist, singer, or astronaut? Some might say “My parents.” I’d say “Wrong answer. Try again.” Teachers breathe life into your dreams and start you on a path toward achieving them. They will never squash your dreams because sometimes dreams are all you have.
- Who do you visit after your first semester of college? Some might say “My parents.” I’d say “You’re right.” Right after you drop off your dirty laundry, you head to your old high school to find that teacher who gave you a C+ on your AP Literature essay to thank him for preparing you for all the papers you had to write that were longer than five paragraphs.
- Why is it that you remember your teachers (even the mediocre ones)? Some might say “Because I spent 12 years of my life with them.” To that I’d say, “Teachers make an impression on you—one that you can’t erase – even if you wanted to.” That, too, is part of our destiny. You never forget the sower–especially during the harvest.
If you’re reading this blog, thank a teacher and mean it!