Tomorrow I will begin my eighth year as a public educator. I’ve had so many days were I’ve had the thought what in the world was I thinking? I left being a corporate accountant and trainer to escape stress, to escape politics, and to be in an environment where I can make a real difference. I didn’t know that stress would follow me to each campus, politics are live and well in each district, the difference to be made would take the life out of me and place me on spiritual life support. I was so unprepared and didn’t know that my classrooms would be filled with children who may not have eaten since the night before, who are being abused day-to-day, who don’t know where mother and father are. No one prepared me in my alternative certification program that the knowledge and tools we would be given would be obsolete before we completed our program and that every year there would be a new buzzword and new name for an old teaching strategy. Most importantly, there has not been a dress code policy that truly has helped me from day-to-day.
Administrators usually express the first day back their professional dress code expectations. Depending on their personal preferences and district standards we can either wear jeans or no jeans, wear flip-flops, open toe shoes, capris, or whatever they find as an appropriate attire for success. I’ve yet to have had one leader to really prepare me and make me aware each year that being a teacher in this generation, especially in an urban demographic, is like walking into war zone. Everyone from the school boards, to the superintendents, to administrators, to teachers, to parents, and down to the students are entering war for yet another year. We battle to meet state standards, district expectations, the needs of our students, all while trying to do what we’ve been called to do, teach. Which by the way, teaching gets the least attention and time throughout a normal day. Parents fly over like helicopters when their child is held accountable as if they will never have to be accountable in this life. Administrators are scared out their mind and have fallen to the pressures of just trying to keep the community happy so they can keep their jobs. Teachers are overwhelmed and exhausted from having to be on the front line without the proper support, resources, and clientele that come everyday ready to learn. Teachers, well we spend so much time parenting, counseling, and looking at data that we have less and less time to plan and produce the rigor and relevant lessons that are expected from us. Year after year, semester after semester we start each year with the dread that its time to go back to school.
So, this brings me to a new perspective this year. I’m not going into this school year looking at the data, looking at the lesson plans, stressing over the cute classroom theme; but I’m showing up tomorrow focused on my armor. I refused to go to battle unarmed yet another year. I will put on the full armor of God so that each day I can stand on what I believe to be right and best for my students. I will buckle the belt of truth around my waist and no matter what political game is being played before me I will be on the side of what is honest and true. I will walk in with the breast-plate of righteousness and with my feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. I’m taking in my shield of faith that the Bible says can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. I will cover my head with the helmet of salvation and be reminded that this is temporary, heaven is my home. Last but not least, I will not forget my sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. The laws of the land may say I cannot read them over my classroom; but no one can stop me from planting them in my heart! Move over district policy this is how I will dress for success!
I pray for you educators as you start your assignments. May you too look at your wardrobe tonight and make a conscious decision to put on those things that will keep you well each upcoming day!