DeFrates column: The heroes who work with our children
Every election season, “heroes” are labeled and leveraged, defined by strokes broad enough to engage the support of the widest of demographics.
Heroes are created by headlines when it is politically convenient, forgotten when it is not. The word begins to lose its meaning. Until we see them in action and realize with absolute clarity that some people are just heroes because they have to be.
This week, the teachers at Carbondale Middle School faced the grief of losing an amazing young student as well as the upheaval and uncertainty of an emotionally charged election.
What they have done for their students throughout it is nothing short of incredible, and the same can be said for so many educators throughout our valley and across the country.
I am proud to say I know some heroes.
I know some heroes whose shoulders and cheeks are still damp from the tears of their students and tears of their own. Who supported 30 grieving young hearts while feeling as though their own was splintering.
I know some heroes who lesson planned with those tears streaming onto the keyboard because they knew that at least they could provide structure and a little bit of certainty in the upside down world of their students who had just lost a friend and classmate.
I know some heroes who made soup for each other the next day to bring a little warmth to a bleak time.
I know some heroes who lost hours of sleep trying to glean the slightest piece of wisdom to lessen the pain felt by even one student someday.
I know some heroes who showed up for recess duty, took attendance, filled out IEPs and completed evaluations despite gnawing heartache. Who organized inboxes, graded papers and then sat down for eight extra hours of parent/teacher conferences without excuses for personal needs.
I know some heroes who listened with deep personal disappointment to the results of our national contest, but whose students still have no idea who their teacher voted for because that teacher wants their classroom to always be a safe place for all ideas and values, encouraging open questions and discussions regardless of their own personal bias.
I know some heroes who again sought out wisdom before entering the classroom Wednesday, looking for a way to make this moment in our history a powerful lesson about compassion, acceptance, democracy and our incredibly diverse American culture, instead of letting it become a lesson about bitterness, anger and resentment.
I know some heroes who have heard the echo of other men’s ignorance and anger from the mouths of their students every day, directed at themselves or classmates.
But instead of silencing anger with anger, they listen, question, love and teach compassion through their own example because they know there is no other way to learn it. And they know that compassion is the only way to change anything.
I know some heroes who are standing tall at the front of their classrooms despite our national affirmation of those words, smiling, welcoming every student by name to show them that they will always have a place here. Always.
I know some heroes who fight hate and hopelessness every day with love and patience, despite never knowing if it made a difference.
I know some heroes who will go home this weekend, having given every ounce of themselves this week to students, co-workers, parents and their own high expectations, to face personal challenges: a struggling relationship, serious health issues, sick kids of their own, financial struggles, depression and others.
But they will not let on, and they will not make excuses. Because they are heroes, they will not look for the easy way out. They will show up every day, ready to teach, love and listen.
I know these women and men.
I am so blessed to say I know some heroes.
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