17 out 2014 Neither victims nor heroes: just teachers
There seems to be a day to celebrate everything in Brazil. March 14th is Bald Men’s Day and April 26th is Goalkeeper’s Day, followed by the Flight Attendants Day on the 31st of May and Students’ Day on the 11t of August, just to mention a few . Since we have taught them all –the bald men, the flight attendants, the goalkeepers and of course the students, I think it’s just fair that we have our own Teachers’ Day. Even if sometimes it doesn’t feel like there is a lot to celebrate.
Among the many Teachers’ Day messages that I read on October 15th, one stood out. It was by Adilson Zabiela, a fellow member of the APIRS board of directors. He wrote: “Whatever reason you had for becoming a teacher, remember that you are neither better nor worse than any other professionals; you are not a hero nor a victim: you are the result o f what the system imposes on you, and the way you respond to it. Some students learn thanks to you, others learn in spite of you”.
Adilson’s words went round and round in my head before I could fully digest them. My first reaction was to disagree with him; I even thought of making a comment on his post saying that teachers who accept to work for a less than decent salary to teach in less than ideal conditions are heroes we bump into everyday, and teachers whose work is undervalued by the society as a whole are victims of a new contradictory social paradigm in which information is so abundant that knowledge seems to be no longer necessary.
But the “catch” is that we do have a choice. We can choose, as many others seem to be doing, not to become a teacher; but if we decide, in spite of everything, to go ahead and become one, then taking on the victim’s role will not do us –or the students–any good. Adilson is right: “you are the result of what the system imposes on you and how you respond to it.”
I recently visited a public school as an invited writer, since the 5th graders had read one of my books. The invitation came from Marcia Knorre Moraes, a very competent, enthusiastic and caring teacher whose love for her students and her job are as evident as the students’ engagement in everything she proposes. I didn’t see a single trace of self-pity in her actions or in her words. Having chosen to be a teacher, I guess she simply decided that she would do her best and deal with what came along, fully aware that some of her students face worse hardships than she does. Neither a hero nor a victim, she has found her way into her students’ hearts and lives, and I have no doubt that, thanks to her, they have learned that learning is fun.