There are two types of teachers: teachers whose sole purpose every morning is to sow seeds of learning and teachers who ... well ... maybe are in it for No. 1, you know — me, myself and I. That’s hard for me to admit, and if you are a loyal reader of this column, you can attest to almost five years of utter positivity.
However, it would be illogical and ignorant of me to think every teacher is like a Melanie Gouine or a Wendy Sands, an Oliver Ellis or an Akear Mewborn, or a Cindy Applegate or a Shane Larkin. On and on the list can go of teachers who step up and stand out as teachers who fling seeds of learning about the fields with the only expectation of a bountiful harvest for those around them.
You know the saying, I’m sure: One bad apple can ruin the bunch. In the harvesting of apples, I suppose that is true. But in the harvesting of kids’ lives and their potentials, their hopes and their dreams, thank goodness that adage falls terribly short. And in the reaping of a young teachers’ growth, effectiveness and sustainability, thank goodness a few bad apples can’t ruin grandma’s apple pie.
Because I believe good wins. I believe the harvest basket we call the education profession operates under different laws of nature. Could a few bad ones indeed ruin our schools? Yes, perhaps so. But do a few bad teachers ruin the whole bunch? Emphatically, the answer is no.
Why not? If public schools are slices of society, microcosms of our communities, why can’t a few rotten pieces of fruit ruin the entire basket? Why and how are our schools and teachers different?
The answer is simple: most teachers defy the laws of nature. They work hard to encase themselves within a protective shield against the infectiousness of a moldy mentality. They don’t allow endocytosis to overtake their minds and engulf their schools. In silent leadership or in quiet modeling, they stand in defiance against being overtaken or swallowed up by what seems natural or normal to most.
Because in today’s warped society, it is not normal for a person to give, sometimes to the point of utter depletion, knowing there might not be a tangible, visible return in the end. It’s not normal to give, to do, to work, to act above and beyond the call, for free. It’s not normal to lose sleep, empty bank accounts, stay late, come in early, give up planning periods, work through lunch, volunteer for extra duties, work on Saturdays, kneel on Sundays for free.
But see, that’s where the difference lies — the difference between the two types of teachers. It’s a difference in perspective on what is valuable. Once again, the teachers who defy nature, also defy what society might consider normal. Their reward simply isn’t tangible, and the fruits of their labor just aren’t visible. Oh! Their baskets are running over. They certainly are reaping a bountiful harvest, but it’s just different. They are reaping intrinsic treasures — treasures that warm the heart, soothe the soul and ease the mind. It’s a harvest so rich and so blessed that one can’t place a value on them.
Intrinsically motivated teachers don’t adhere to normalcy, and because of them, I believe the education profession will never implode. I wholeheartedly entrust the sustainability of our society into the hands of a group of well-protected harvesters who defy a few to ruin their mission in life.
There’s a lesson to be learned in this metaphor. We each have a field to harvest. For the teacher, the field is a classroom and some cinderblock hallways. For you, your field may be a corner office or a cubicle, a church pew or a ball field. It may be a kitchen table or a cash register, a computer screen or an engine block. Your field may make policy or follow it, but just imagine. Imagine what life would be like if we each began to defy normalcy in our own individual fields — if we began to change the narrative of what it is to be normal.
Call me a romantic or an idealist, but in the same breath, I hope you can call me an abnormal, too.
Sheryl Green is a secondary educator in Columbus. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.