Friday, September 30, 2011

Educators: Child Advocates

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” 
                                                                                    - Martin Luther King, Jr.

I wake up in the wee hours of the morning with a student in mind.  Teachers know that feeling.  The child creeps into your dreams and an issue you've been observing, thinking about and avoiding to some degree becomes clear and apparent.

Initially you want it to go away.  The reason you avoided it in the first place is that you hoped it would go away or your initial observations were incorrect.  You also know, after years of teaching, that issues like this are difficult, up-hill battles, and complicated situations requiring after hours meetings, collaboration of many, strong emotions and differences of viewpoint.

But then, early in the dark hours of the morning when all is quiet, the child creeps into your dreams and looks you in the eye with the message, Are you going to help me or not?  Then you roll out of bed, reach for your glasses and head to books, your journal and/or computer to write about, problem solve and research the situation. What are the child's rights?  How are situations like this remedied?  What can a teacher do to help?  Is a teacher's free speech protected?

A plan is created, and you begin down a controversial path reminding yourself that keeping the child's needs and interests as the focal point is the key and the reason you're willing to travel that rocky road.

You question yourself, Am I right?  Then you remind yourself that it's okay to be wrong as long as you walk this path with respect and care--your intentions are well founded or else that child would not have creeped into your dreams.

Like teachers everywhere, I joined this profession to make a difference.  I've never been able to look the other way when a child is in need, and many might say that I push too hard and dream too big, but in the end I have to advocate for the child who wakes me in the night.  Wouldn't you?