Today in Orange County, Florida, it’s our turn to join the ranks of schools around the country and the world that have tried to open their doors in the middle of the 2020 pandemic. It has been a nightmare getting here, and even as the doors open, the legal battles continue. Even with directives and mandates, science proves time and again that it does not bend to human will. If we learn nothing else this year, we have learned that.
I just want to wish every single one of you all of the luck, prayers, peace and hope I can muster as you start this day. You are warriors. Whatever some ignorant fool said yesterday doesn’t matter. What I say doesn’t matter.
What matters is that no matter how you’re doing it today, you are taking a stand, for kids, for teachers, for your families, for yourselves, for society, and for each other. Some of you are sitting it out for yourself and your family, so you can be here next year to teach when it’s safe. Some of you are teaching from home, whether or not you wanted to, which takes a lot of patience with your pets, your children, and your home on display for critique by the best critics of all: children, and sometimes their moms, dads or others. Some of you are going into the classroom. Some of you are going by choice, because that’s how strongly you believe in what you’re doing. Some of you are going because you don’t have a choice. My heart is breaking for you. Some of you are just rolling with the punches, because you can, and you are praying for the best. I’m praying with you.
I have used this year to teach my daughter so much about humanity, government, money, power, compassion, democracy, whatever it is we have masquerading as democracy right now, international relations, consumerism, and just a lot of topics that nothing else could have taught better than 2020. Because I am somewhat a teacher at heart, I turn everything into a lesson… because it’s what we do in our family. Which means I know it’s exactly what you will do. And you will do it much better and effortlessly than I can without the professional training you have. It’s what you do.
At the end of the day, or the year, 2020 is going to be one of the biggest chapters in history that has ever taken place. Things are going to get even harder. You are going to be asked why. You’re going to be asked why something inexplicable happened. You’re going to be asked why we are where we are. You’re going to be asked why something is happening NOW, before we even know it’s happening. You’re going to be asked questions you don’t even have the answers to. You’re going to try to figure it how to answer without an angry parent showing up minutes after the bell lets kids go, because they don’t agree. You’re going to be asked to explain why something is fair, and you’re going to do your best to answer, even when you don’t think it is. Because you know what children need to hear.
Somehow, you’re going to figure it out. Because that’s what teachers do. And that’s why lawyers can be lawyers, and doctors can be doctors, and engineers can be engineers, and even politicians can be politicians. (Because anything can be exploited.) But at the end of the day, everything is made possible because somebody taught…. someone taught us all that anything can be figured out. And if you don’t know something, you will find the answer. No matter what anybody chooses to do in life, that is the most important lesson you all teach us. You are the foundation of our future and you are responsible, in large part, for who these kids become. And they are starting from a place none of us have ever had to be. For many of them, you are their only beacon of hope, honesty, and hopefully a little bit of compassion.
I have also learned over time that kids are often our beacon of hope, honesty, and compassion. I hope that if nothing else happens today, at least one child reminds you why you are doing what you’re doing, and that you find some sense of the incredible value you have to so many people, which has been hard to see in the current climate.
I am part of a law enforcement family. My family is also made up largely of military, doctors, and so many educators. Today, you are the Frontline workers. Today, you joined the ranks of my family members who have been fighting on the front lines for generations. Today you have the impossible task of doing what you do every year: not just teaching a curriculum, but shaping the little humans who will be responsible for making something out of whatever is left of this world when 2020 finishes its work. For some kids, it will be the first time they get real information about what’s happening in the world.
Whatever you do, try to be patient with each other. Try to be patient with kids. We never know what they were taught. (Or rather, sadly, we do.) Remember everyone comes from a different background that has shaped their view of the world and their reactions to it. But in this…. everyone wants to stay alive.
Please know that I have not stopped praying this week for all of you, and will continue to do so on a daily basis. I pray that you all make it through this year, in all of its fluidity, and that you are able to tell the amazing stories of your experience to many future generations. Please know I am here, and I am a human being before anything else. Please don’t hesitate to contact me, and I will do anything I can to help. I will listen. I will donate what I can. I will fight for you in whatever small ways I can find, and in bigger ways if they present themselves.
When it’s all said and done, there are not enough words to thank you for what you do. Anybody who doesn’t understand this should really consider why children so often call their parents by their teachers’ names, and their teachers, “Mom.” Thank you for everything you do for put babies, young and old, and may you stay safe and protected while you offer up your lives for one of the most sacred professions in existence. May the people who don’t get it yet learn to appreciate you as they should.
Today, as always, you are the heroes of the world. Don’t let the fools of the world be the voices you hear just because they are the loudest. Know your worth. Make sure your students know theirs. There is so much more to teach this year than what is in a book. As always, I know you will rise to the occasion.
Thank you. With everything I have, thank you. Wear that invisible cape proudly! (And with a mask.)