When my boys were in middle school, they decided to do a practical joke that turned into a serious matter resulting in a visit by public safety officials to our farm. You know how serious something is when these men in their black sedans and black suits flash their IDs and begin asking questions. From our mistakes, we can learn some of the most lasting lessons that truly “stick.” My boys and our entire family learned from this joke gone wrong where nothing or no one was seriously injured, just our pride. As a teacher I have had my share of victories, but it is from the “defeats” that I have learned my greatest lessons. It is through defeats that I dig deep and will not allow them to define me.
As a member of the Maquoketa Optimist Club, each meeting we say the pledge which includes some of the following lines:
To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet.
To make all your friends feel that there is something in them…
To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.
To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future…
To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.
We in education know that just saying the positives will not make them happen. Only hard work and common focus will affect change. We must take lessons from which we have failed and learn how to move forward. There is much in our world around which to be concerned – test scores that make us question our ability to compete globally, reduced funding that causes us to scale back on resources or supply more for our classroom from our own pockets, arguments over Common Core standards and best practices in today’s classrooms, keeping up with technology and the place for social media in the classroom. The list goes on. But we must not lose sight of the fact that what we do has a significant impact on the future of our world.
We need to remind the public and legislators that no matter what their opinion may be about the current state of education, teachers and administrators are the ones in the trenches moving forward and striving towards excellence for all students. We are the ones on the firing line everyday as we combat the trials that are set before us. But we also are the ones willing to work together and help solve the problems because so much is at stake. Together we must “forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future” being “too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.” Our focus must always continually be looking towards bringing out the best in our students and in ourselves, learning from our defeats and capitalizing on our successes. It is what teaching is all about; it is what life is all about; to work only for the best and to expect only the best. As we all work together – teachers, administrators, public, and legislators – we can make the best happen. Of this, I am optimistic.