Especially during the last few weeks of a long, tough school year, I started repeating this mantra in my head: be a part of the solution, not the problem. When life or job or family or circumstances in general begin to heighten my anxiety, I need something to help control my actions and reactions or else I’ll impulsively respond, and sometimes that isn’t so pretty. So, I admit it; I talk to myself. Here recently, that little phrase has saved me from much embarrassment.
I’m not even sure where or why the phrase popped into my head, but if you really ponder what it means, I think you’ll agree about its significance. Be a part of the solution, not the problem. Insert the phrase into any realm of our existence - politics, religion, family, health, relationships – and the concept remains steadfast. Instead of falling into the trap of joining the status quo, the rule-breakers, the majority rules, or the this-is-how-we’ve-always-done-it mentality, if we could stand apart as a resolution, imagine the possibilities. Instead of issuing rebukes, opinions, ridicule, and chastisements, imagine if we offered viable solutions.
This week the sentiment of the phrase proved itself as I began my annual summer trip to the mountains of Colorado. I found a kindred spirit in, of all places, a Denny’s restaurant off I-40 in the middle of New Mexico. Her name was Barbara, and she taught middle school science in Ohio. She, like me, was using her summer break to travel across country and enjoy the great outdoors. As we waited in line to pay our bills, we struck up a conversation and discovered we were both teachers.
The conversation ebbed and flowed in those short 15 minutes, but we immediately seemed to recognize a similar drive we have within our profession – to be part of the solution, not the problem. She said, “I never wanted to be a social studies teacher. I wanted to teach math.” In fact, she hated social studies, thanks to a horrible teacher she had when she was in middle school.
“He was just mean,” she said. “He would degrade us verbally, bombard us with worksheets that made no sense, and sit in his desk chair on his computer. So, I grew up hating social studies.” When she decided to become a teacher, math was her choice. It was a no-brainer…until she took a history class with a phenomenal college professor. Then, her career projection took an unforeseen 180 shift.
“I don’t know, really. I just compared the two teachers in my mind. One was flakey and bad. The other was, well, amazing. I guess I just decided right then and there to snub my nose at him and be the kind of teacher he was not.” Now, fourteen years later, she is.
I guess that’s what I want to do. I want to snub my nose at all the bad teachers and be a good one. I want to counteract the negative within this profession and spread positivity. One day at a time. One class period at a time. I want to do my little part to protect students from hating English…or hating school altogether.
One day at a time. To be a part of what’s right, not what’s wrong. To shed light in an often dark and gloomy world. To refrain from voicing our jaded opinions and be the voice of positivity. That’s what a teacher from Ohio taught me this week.