When I was a small and my world was safe, I would wake up on Christmas morning and there would always be an orange at the bottom of my stocking – a “store bought orange” as my mother would say. Because, you see, on our family farm it was always a source of pride that almost everything we ate and used came from the work of our hands. I long for these simpler times, when an orange could mean so much.
That simpler time was 1968, a time that historically many of us consider to be one of the most tumultuous in our nation’s history. Yet, my family was able to envelope me in a sense of peace and caring.
I teach first grade in the Chicago Public Schools. I know my job well, and I am actually very good at it (according to all the Christmas cards from children I just opened). And this is what I can tell you, in spite of the politics and policy of education that get harmfully thrown around – the most important part of this job is to keep children safe, and care for them deeply so they can live the lives they were meant to live.
That is it. The rest is extra.
I have been struggling with what safety and caring look like inside a society that seems to care very little for children. Education budgets have been cut to the bone, teachers are overrun with needless mandates for paperwork and policy that take us away from the heart of teaching, both adults and children are judged and labeled by meaningless tests. And the list goes on.