Singer and songwriter Jackson Brown wrote, “In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins — nor through strength, but through perseverance.” The stream, made up of thousands of drops of water, is much like our work as educators. We are in constant movement. We run into a lot of rocks. We can’t see the whole stream at any given point. But without us, the land becomes parched, and with us, the landscape changes. If we persevere, we bring life to new environments and create change.
My mom taught first grade her whole life, and from her unflinching commitment to me, I have learned the value of perseverance. We live in difficult times indeed for public education. These are times when it seems to be in vogue to bash teachers, our association with each other, and public schools. It is a time when many call for a business model in the name of reform. But children aren’t widgets, and no one person can be defined by a number. Teaching is in fact complex and challenging work, and seeking to distill the end result to simply a number demeans us as individuals.
I believe every challenge presents an opportunity, and so it becomes a question of how to take advantage of these opportunities. Our strength comes from our roots. Distributing leadership and empowering relational leaders is our union’s next work. To persevere requires support from each other. It’s too tough to do alone, and it’s too tough to ask just a few people to carry on. MCEA is us — all of us — collectively together. That’s our strength.
Teachers lead. Simon Sinek wrote, “There are leaders and there are those who lead. Leaders hold a position of power or influence. Those who lead inspire us. Whether individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead not because we have to, but because we want to. We follow those who lead not for them, but for ourselves.”
Our collective work leads us to stand now and speak what we know to be true about education and what is best for children. History will measure our actions by how we elect to serve the higher good and our profession.
Our sphere of influence as individuals and collectively is wide and deep. Much of the so-called education reform movement today is based upon assumptions made by people who didn’t work in a school today, or yesterday, or even last year. So in this time we as educators are called to lead — to rise up and speak our truth. Education is not about a “bottom line,” not about business, and not about profit. It is the cornerstone of our very democracy, and it is what can make or break the lives of people. It is complex and challenging, and filled with rocks and obstacles at times. We can and will persevere, bringing water to places once parched.