Our neighbors who serve in the dangerous jobs of law enforcement and fire and rescue are certainly underpaid, and in many cases, under-appreciated. Yes they receive paychecks and benefits, but their service is honorable, and other than a few bad apples, they do so out of a sense of service to their fellow man.
Spend some time in Branson, Missouri. Attend a show. Just about any Branson show. You will soon come to a point in which veterans are asked to stand to be recognized for their service. Nowadays, that recognition is being joined by applause for our police officers and fire safety personnel. As it should be.
These are the people - men and women - who occasionally risk their lives in their jobs. They approach situations that could at any moment become dangerous to them and to their surroundings. Any traffic stop could be volatile. Any fire can become explosive. Loss of limb, voice, and life can be a grenade away.
And then there are teachers.
It is becoming more and more apparent to the general public that teachers are not only underpaid and unsung, but that they sit in positions of possible danger. The service provided by educators to the children of this nation is more than a babysitting role; it is to improve the lives of those children and to improve the progression of our great nation. Teachers save the world from ignorant mistakes. We teach children how to be adults, how to recover from mistakes, and how to press forward through adversity. We also do our best to eradicate illiteracy. Education is a service industry that feeds all other careers.
Then there is that little part of the teaching profession which includes the protection of our youth. We conduct fire, storm, and earthquake drills. We take temperatures and bandage wounds. And in the most extreme cases, we lock our classrooms down, hide from weaponized intruders, and stand between a gun and our students. Watching the news, we come to believe that such an incident could occur any time and any place.
But they don't stand up in Branson for teachers.
In some ways, we feel left out of the hoopla. It's no one's fault, but we get the point that we feel we're being slighted. That's why you'll see so many teachers who get angry at legislators. That's when you start to see teachers holding snotty signs in protest of low wages or poor working conditions. That's when you start to read all the social media posts about teachers using their own money to supply their students, posts about how we don't really get paid for those weeks in the summer when we don't report to the classroom, and more posts about how we deal with other people's children in a broken society.
Education is a different world.
But I don't suppose that means we need to act like victims. The Woe Is Me mentality does little to benefit us - outside of getting senators to call us whiny babies. At some point, when we lose our professional facade, we begin to look like every other "entitled" group of people.
Let us not lose the concept of humility. When we do our jobs well, work on effective methods of public relationships, and positively affect our students, our reputations will be held in higher esteem than when we yell chants at politicians. We do well to dress professionally, speak eloquently, and intelligently cultivate relationships with all kinds of people (including politicians). We do well to refuse to be used as political pawns and fall into public relations traps in the media. We do well to remain positive representatives in our profession, and refuse to shriek our anger in what looks like blatant selfishness to the general public.
In short, we have to be careful with our image. Things can go negative in a heartbeat.
Not only that, but we can't let people hear us whining about kids, families, our own low pay. That will most likely only succeed in further separating us from the people we're trying to impress.
Our jobs aren't necessarily deserving of special songs and applause in Branson. We're not defending our country against invaders, and we're not running into burning buildings, and shouldn't be seen as trying to grab attention away from those go do. Our jobs are tough. We're stressed. We're jumping through hoops from all sides - state standards, federal mandates, local school board policies, administrative micromanagement, and helicopter parenting. But I hate to think my job is any more deserving of accolades than the NASA engineer, the carpenter, or the clerk at Sears. Each has his/her own stresses and reasons to deserve applause and award. Our jobs are just different.
Instead of acting the martyr (in any career), let us seek to understand others and be understood by others.