professornana (professornana) wrote,

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Silly, don't be a hero

Sorry, could not resist the reference in the title of this post.  Maybe later I will be able to come up with a more apt title, but since it is Sunday and our routine takes us off the church, lunch, and errand running, I doubt there will be too much time to reflect on a better title.  But I was thinking about the word "hero" this morning after reading an incredible op-ed piece by Eugene Robinson in today's "Washington Post."  Here is the link:

You owe it to yourself to go read it.  Then come on back here.

When I read this piece first thing this morning I was cheered.  There seem to be so few clarion voices talking about teachers.  But then I read this a second time (Close reading, right?) and again.  While I do believe Mr. Robinson is correct about poverty being an oft overlooked factor in education and achievement, I have some reservations about a few things in this editorial.  My gravest comes from the first line:

"Teachers are heroes, not villains, and it’s time to stop demonizing them."

You see, i disagree.  No, I am not saying teachers are villains.  But I do not perceive myself as a hero either.  I am a teacher. I care passionately about students and learning and books and reading.  I teach because it is what I truly believe I was called to do.  Teaching is my vocation not just my job.  But that does not make me a hero.  I think sometimes that we bandy that word about too much: HERO.  When we do that it loses its meaning.  I want to reserve use of hero for those situations when ANYONE acts heroically.  I think of the teacher who lost her job a couple of years ago when she stood up to censors (and I know this is not an isolated incident).  I think of the winner of the NCTE Award for Intellectual Freedom a couple of years ago, a college journalism professor whose students investigated claims by prisoners who felt they had been wrongfully convicted.  His job was threatened; his students were harassed.  I think of the teachers who protected kids during school shootings.  I think of teachers who put their lives at risk educating women or the poor or the outcast  in places around the world.

No, I am not a hero.  They are.  They serve to remind me, though, of the importance of what it is we all do.  Perhaps we are all on a hero's journey, questing after that almost elusive grail, determined to see our way through the challenges. 

And now, let me point out the line in the editorial I loved.  Robinson talks about teachers digging in (referring to the strike in Chicago) and how he might just dig in as well if:  "I were constantly being lectured by self-righteous crusaders whose knowledge of the inner-city schools crisis comes from a Hollywood movie."  NAILED IT!  All too often, I think, those who are critical of education have a Hollywood view of what it is we do.  Teaching is so much more than that. 
Tags: editorials, hero, op-ed, teaching
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