As a retired teacher, I didn’t expect to be brought to tears by attending the Halloween parties at our grandson’s school, but I was.
As I watched the little costume parade led by a smiling, dedicated 6’3 principal happily dressed as The Cat in The Hat, my mind began to take me to places I hadn’t expected. Even though watching the grandson parade in his Luke Skywalker costume was wonderful, I began to focus more on the costumed teachers walking with our little ones.
On their faces I saw that all-too-familiar look, expressing the love and dedication they have for their students. If given a choice, most of them would not have worn witch hats or clown costumes on a Thursday afternoon, but they did it for their kids. They held little hands and let the neighborhood stare at them because that’s what you do when you are a teacher.
For some reason, those teachers walking in a line with their charges took my mind to images of Sandy Hook, remembering how those courageous teachers led those innocents to safety, hand in hand, eyes closed, through the chaos that had been their school home. It was then that I was again struck by the question, When did these civil servants become Public Enemy No. 1?
In these days of ill-conceived school reform handed down to teachers and administrators by often-misguided policymakers, we have lost sight of so many important concepts. First and foremost in my mind on that Halloween day was that the vast majority of people who choose to be educators are a unique breed, willing to take on the enormous responsibility of helping turn our children into participating citizens, all the while knowing that they will be open to review by the entire community. Teachers, like anyone else, will improve when they are understood, appreciated and supported, not when they are scrutinized, demoralized and demonized.
The second concept that flooded my heart and mind that day was that schools are microcosms of their neighborhoods. That little school opened its holiday celebration to the community by planning to parade down the street where the whole neighborhood could watch and enjoy. That wise principal and staff understood that it does take a village to raise our children and the neighborhood school is the heart of that village.
On that day there were no tests, no evaluations, no standards or competitions. There was just celebration. Celebration not of a holiday with obscure roots, or of high test scores, but just a celebration of community. And that’s good.