With the detention centers aside. I want to focus on children who are struggling each day in this country to meet their basic needs. While I support efforts to end this craziness of keeping children locked up near our southern borders that stinks of Japanese internment camps, I think we need to pay attention to our own children. Poverty is a cruel social constraint that closes the doors of opportunity for children we need to keep fill the future needs that we have no idea what those needs will entail.
After a long journey, Jesus needed a nap, so his disciples found a place where he could recharge his batteries. While he was resting a group of children rushed in to see him, but they shooed the children away, but Jesus came out and said, “Suffer the children unto me.” And despite his need for rest He spent time with them. What lesson is that? We are considered his children and showed us without a doubt no matter how exhausted He may be, there will always be time for us.
As a teacher, I want to be like that. I want to show my students that I am there for them. I am a teacher and my job is to educate the children that are sent to me. I hear stories from them of neglect and abuse that makes my heart hurt. We have a moral obligation to the children who will take our place in the world. We must make sure they are ready to do that.
Now I hear all kinds of criticism about how teachers don’t do the job they are paid to do, but too often those who criticize teachers the most have never set foot in a classroom since they graduated. Teaching is a very difficult job, because modern kids do not learn the same way we did and why should they when their world will be much different from ours. What seemed to work in the past when we were in school, won’t for the students today. We have also discovered that children learn differently and the one size-fits-all is no longer effective as it wasn’t really effective in our time.
What if the computer programmer who has the skills to put people on Mars is working at Walmart, because that is what his education prepared him for? How do challenge our students enough so that they will be prepared to do the job needed for the future? Having had many students on the autistic spectrum in my classroom, I have found everyone of them has a superior intelligence in something they are interested in. What if they are interested in producing a machine that can detect and treat cancer? What if a student who is failing language arts is able to design a rocket engine that will carry people to Mars? Or come up with a way to clean up our polluted environment? Some have even suggested that Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison may have been on the spectrum and I have no problem believing that. After his first month at school, Thomas Edison brought a note home to his mother from his teacher. His mother told Thomas that the teacher thought it was an excellent student. Years later after his mother passed, Thomas found that letter where the teacher suggested she find a special school for people like him since he would never be successful in a regular school. If that note was taken seriously, we’d still be in the dark, I’m afraid.
Suffer the children unto me. Let’s celebrate their talents. I heard one speaker say once, “We are born with talent and it takes the school system twelve years to suck it out of us.” Harry Chapin sang a song about a teacher and a student who was painting flowers. In teaching the child to do what he was instructed to do, she removed his creativity and replaced it with compliance. Working in assembly factories, we were taught compliance that would make us great workers, but the assembly line days are over. In its place are jobs that require creative solutions to problems. What about all that plastic we got floating like an island in the ocean and the kid who used a boom to gather all of the garbage that kills marine life. His solution failed miserably. Yeah his idea held no water. But what if one of your students saw that and said, “You know it would work if only he did this.”
Going back to Thomas Edison, picture him sitting at his desk at Menlo Park, NJ with his light bulb. Did you know he tried a hundred different elements in the filament before tungsten finally worked? How many times would we be willing to sit there facing failure 99 times? Most of us would never make it to 99. Most of us might not even make it to 10. We hate failure, but as I tell my students, no learning can take place without failure.
In order to create an education system that will produce the results I am talking about here, we need to commit to education. Do not shrug and say, “Well I got through it, kid. Now it’s your turn. Good luck.” I want that island floating in the ocean to go away. I want people who have some ideas on how to produce clean energy. I want people to fly to Mars. I may not live to see it, but my kids might. And hopefully one of my students will do just that.
Suffer the children unto me. May I never be too tired to listen. May I never be too tired to direct them in a fruitful direction. While I may not teach them all the facts they will need, I don’t want to build a wall that will be a barrier to where they want to go.