As a spin off of my previous post, “Thank You, Students;” I extend a sincere appreciation to you, Veteran educators.
This past week I was fortunate enough to sit amongst numerous colleagues who were being recognized for their leadership by Superintendent Mark Edwards, in a series known as “Thank You for Your Leadership.” It was hosted by our community, brought to the forefront by the vision of our own Superintendent, Dr. Lynn Moody. I found it exceptional not only for the message portrayed, but for the true merit of what was expressed: thanking our veteran educators for all they have done.
Because this doesn’t happen enough.
Teacher leaders were recognized, but also educators with 25+ years of service. I can not even begin to imagine all the joy and hardships these educators have endured in the past 25 years of education. I have such emotions over three, quick years, what must 25 years be like? Just considering such, for anyone who has taught, is enough to be overwhelmed by emotion. I constantly think of my students, and am up for hours figuring means to better the classroom environment. I have cried numerous times over children whom I thought I could “save,” and am left wondering if I did enough for them to have prevented a situation. I am left at the end of each year wondering, “could I have done more? I’m sure I could have. If I only had one more year with them.” And as I think of these students whom I’ve had for two years in a row, I realize I am JUST beginning to grasp the pathway to significant growth for them individually. To think of getting a new set of students next year is tough to swallow.
And then I think, “they’ve been doing it for 25 years. What that must feel like.”
To them I know my perception is of an energetic, sleep-deprived newbie – and they couldn’t be more spot on (if an I.V. form of coffee were available, I’d be on it.) To me, I wish they knew how much I appreciate them for their leadership, courage, stability, and for their expertise upon experiencing 25 years of what I have the past three. (And how is it that they are still standing? Because I feel like collapsing.)
I desire for them to know, as Mark Edwards said, “the work you are doing is sacred work; yet, it is the work of a community.” And this community within Rowan is thanking YOU; how remarkable is this? At this moment, I know our veteran educators need lifted up given the parameters of our profession within North Carolina. With the issues of pay, undoubtedly comes the issue of if we’re truly expressing gratitude to our more experienced educators, let alone treating them justly. EdWeekly released an article last week on how experience really does matter in the growth of a child; shedding a new realm of evidence to support the value of an experienced educator in the classroom.
Putting all the variables aside regarding professional development, high-quality feedback, and support of educators – YOU matter, Veterans. I see your strength, and I appreciate your listening ears. For those in my own school, you no doubt have been the ones who have led me off “the deep end” a handful of times, particularly as I begin to understand the system. You inspire me to continue, to push the limits even when I feel the barriers are too high for me to climb. You help me understand that change takes time, and my rather impatient tendencies are not necessarily a negative in all situations. In the words of Mark Edwards, “what you say matters!” It matters to the students, it matters to ME – a young educator (Shh, don’t tell my students; they believe I’ve found the fountain of youth at 99!)
And here is what I’ve come to realize. We need each other, and the moment that a school community relinquishes the previous belief of hierarchy amongst educators, is the moment we begin to converse, collaborate, and celebrate one another’s successes and tribulations. Just as we need our students as much as they need us, it is no different for a seasoned vs. novice educator; when we are part of a system which chooses to recognize and amplify each others expertise, it “is magic!” Ubiquitous leadership: we ALL have the ability and opportunity to lead. Veteran educator, your leadership these past 25 years has led me into education. Your vision and sustained support for Public Education inspires me to advocate for students and teachers alike. Public education will flourish, as it is beginning to in our own community, the moment we have a unified commitment to progressive change, creating the deposition that “it doesn’t get better by waiting for it to happen, that we must push towards it” (Dr. Lynn Moody.) All members matter in this field; and blending elements of our past pedagogy with our ever-evolving methodologies means amplifying the potential of student growth and innovation to extraordinary heights. It takes seasoned leaders to recognize and sustain a vision, to cultivate the strengths of all stakeholders in supporting and moving forward pragmatically.
And as I myself become overcome with emotion considering last Thursday, considering all the truly unbelievable educators who stood up around me, the image to the right is brought to mind: of an individual paving a new road. I imagine it not with one, but with many. Many experts, many leaders, many teachers, and many students pulling such together.
Pulling such is more difficult as one, is it not? It is breathtaking what can be accomplished when an entire community is supporting such, though.
This is how I now imagine my own community; a community of ubiquitous leaders, both of novice and mastery backgrounds. Celebrating and expressing gratitude for one another’s unique expertise, caring deeply about our students collectively; choosing to move forward, “being all in everyday” for everyone!
I wish words could express my gratitude to you, veteran educators and leaders. For now all I can say is: “thank you for your leadership!” I appreciate you deeply, and so does our community.
A Young Educator