I usually strive to stay optimistic. But right now, my heart is hurting. The condition of public education, particularly in North Carolina, is truly disheartening. Funding for education, particularly early childhood education, is getting cut and reallocated. Teachers in North Carolina were denied raises for the sixth year in a row. Thousands of teacher assistant positions are getting cut. And, to add insult to injury, it is now legal to carry a concealed weapon on school grounds.
I get it. Right now the US is in a huge budget crisis. It’s just not feasible for the government to give everyone the funding that they need. But, they way that our legislation is making decisions right now feels downright disrespectful towards educators. It feels like they are trying to assert their power in an extremely unhealthy. We teachers are exhausted. Because of the lack of salary raises, there is less of an incentive to continue the job. Now that there are fewer teacher assistants, many teachers are feeling beyond overwhelmed as their responsibilities practically double (yet, of course, their pay remains the same). Because of the new gun control laws, even our personal safety could be in question.
This amount of stress is contagious. If teachers are not feeling validated, chances are higher that their performance in the classroom will be compromised. This isn’t fair for us, and it sure isn’t fair for our children. I have seen the way my students react to my stress. It just snowballs: my patience is weakened, and I am not able to respond with my usual amount of assertiveness. My emotions are heightened, my children respond to this with empathy, by heightening their own emotions, or by engaging in a power struggle. This, in turn, tests my patience, further heightening my emotions. I can’t teach to my fullest ability. My children can’t learn at their fullest ability. It’s no longer really education. It’s dispiriting.
But, you know what else is contagious? Love. I know that when I see someone going out of their way to act with love, my stress level decreases. When a child is having a tantrum, and I make a conscious effort to tell them that I love them no matter what, it can change the entire dynamic of the classroom. Power struggles are diffused, as our community gets back into balance.
I know that it is time for something to change. Too many people are hurting right now. It’s clear that there are some tough decisions to make, but that the current solutions are not sustainable or respectful.
It seems like it is time to leave problem solving to those who are not involved in using the existing political structure to make decisions. I wonder what would happen if we looked for answers from our children. Children have an innate sense of creativity. They do not feel constrained by “the way things are done.” They have the magical ability to find equilibrium in the most unconventional ways. We could learn so much from emulating their unbridled enthusiasm, creativity, and love. Maybe their love will radiate so strongly that the legislators themselves will feel it, and will channel their power into something that will help us all learn and grow.
“Love is the water that wears down the rocks.”– Brother Sun