To the Editor:
The climate that surrounds us these days is divisive at best. You don’t have to look too far to see that, in fact, we are assigned to “us and them,” defined by “for and against” seen as “positive and negative.
Labels, as we know, are given to describe, to group, to segregate or combine, to share characteristics, to show beliefs. They can be prescribed with clinical knowledge, they can be born from an ignorant heart. When the labels and the division finds its way to our doorsteps, flows into our lives, affects our family and friends…we react. Our reactions are born from our fears, our anger, our disbelief and our sense of outrage. It’s natural, it’s visceral. It is real to us.
The words that we choose to express our concerns may not always be timely or beneficial, but they always arise from the fierceness of our souls, the passion of our hearts. We all would aspire to fight the good fight for our convictions. We stand up for what we believe is right, and true and just. We engage, confront and dispute for things, for people we know are worthy of the fight. There will always be two sides to everything. We choose the side we wish to stand with, stand up for, for a myriad of reasons. We all make our choices from experiences we have had, beliefs we hold, and the hopefulness we possess. You can make a case for either side of “both sides” because within each half rings the sound of truth.
The beauty of being able to speak our minds, our hearts, and our souls should never be seen as wasted breaths or dismissed as invaluable. Never has the world around us needed more inclusion, more acceptance, more tolerance, and more empathy than it does today. So as you chose your side, choose the words and actions that speak your truth…because you own it. With ownership comes responsibility, but it’s yours to decide…always.
My side, the teachers. From 1986 until 2016 I had three children in the Warwick school system. That’s a long time for anything! From the very first day when my son stepped into Mrs. Crowley’s kindergarten classroom, where a banner proclaimed “Welcome Class of 2000,” I was ready to place the education of my children into these most capable, loving hands. Years later, when my daughter started school she had the great fortune to experience the same amazing kindergarten teacher, albeit in a different school, I was more than pleased. And as the years of elementary school passed I never once took anything they were experiencing for granted. I saw first-hand the commitment their teachers had for all the children in their care. I was witness to the extraordinary community the school provided. I knew that I could rely on a watchful eye when I had concerns, a helpful hand when things got overwhelming and a compassionate heart when one was needed, for whatever reason. I knew I could always count on these teachers.
The reason I placed my trust into these educators is because I knew it wasn’t just a job they were coming to each day, it was a calling. It wasn’t a paycheck, it was a passion. It was because they had the ability to teach, to reach my children because they had made the decision that this is what they wanted to do as their life’s mission. I knew that because I saw it every day.
As the years flew by, and they headed to junior high, I knew they would be leaving the comfort of their elementary school family and placed into the uncertainty of 7th and 8th grade. Deep breaths were in order the first few days as they began the newest educational journey of junior high. Navigating classes, lunchroom seating, meeting new friends, an abundance of after school activities and catching the dreaded late bus all part of their new normal. And as luck would have it, we were once again blessed with amazing individuals to teach, to guide, to reassure, to make my kids feel valuable at a time when students are the most vulnerable. It was evident, that once again, the teachers of Warwick schools were there to provide my children with an exceptional education.
As they headed to high school, child number three was beginning kindergarten. Could we be so fortunate to find the same remarkable faculty at Robertson, our new elementary school? Oh, yes we could, yes we did! Starting again with child number three (as child number one, in college, child number two, a senior in high school) we placed our faith and trust into these teachers. We were not disappointed. I can’t even find enough words to describe the elementary school experience my youngest daughter experienced. Why? Because her teachers worked hard to bring out the best in her, academically and as a member of the school family. I saw this first hand through their actions and I heard it through their words. They loved teaching their “kids.” It was palpable, it was evident every day. Leaving this school was very traumatic for my daughter. I wondered if she could find this same sense of community as she moved forward.
I should have known that elementary school was just the beginning, the base, the place she would lift off from and junior high was the place where her new adventures awaited her landing. Junior high, the place she found her “team” the Lightning Bolts…so apropos, for it was her spark. Wonderful new teachers with enthusiasm and true grit. Junior high kids are a tough bunch, they are changing and challenging in every sense of the word, and the teachers that have chosen this grade level to teach, are warriors! It was two years that prepared her for the last stop of her Warwick school journey.
High school provided her with one very special principal who made every student, who walked the halls of Toll Gate, feel like they truly mattered. Teachers who embraced the differences and challenges teenagers universally bring with them. The highs and lows, up and downs, the disappointments high school can hold, were never lost on the teachers who brought their best so their students could discover theirs. It was an academic journey that could never exist without these remarkable teachers. They were shaping my child with their knowledge, their wisdom, and their humor. And perhaps one of the most important things a teacher can bring to their students, faith. The faith they had in her, the faith that showed her she was capable of doing amazing things. Four years surrounded by wonderful examples of what teaching is, what teaching does. Four years that helped shape her future.
All three kids have exited the Warwick school system after 30 years of being part of it. I am forever grateful to each and every teacher, coach, guidance counselor, that crossed their paths, which made a difference in their lives. What you brought to their lives can never be assigned a monetary amount.
We know it is not the salary that draws you to this vocation. And for those who feel you earn too much? Spend a day, and if you’re up for the challenge, a week as a teacher. My guess is… you would change your mind. For anyone who tells you “if you don’t like how you’re treated, get a new job.” They are speaking from ignorance, because teaching isn’t a job you toss away...it’s a life’s devotion. They have no idea what teaching entails. If only those who rant and rave against our teachers could be a fly on the wall. If only, maybe they would see what I have seen for all these years.
Yes, there are two sides two every issue. My side is, and will always be, the teachers. My choice comes from my experience, my children’s experiences and now, as a teacher assistant my professional experience. My choice arises from what I have and continue to see. Why? Because I see you all. I see you work so very hard. I see you come in early. I see what you take home with you, not only all the work you do after school hours, but the worry and concern you have for all your students, especially the ones struggling. I see you buy endless supplies and snacks for your kids. I see you fight for the support you so desperately need. I see you cry when your voices go unheard. I see your frustration and despair. But I also see the spark you refuse to let go dim. I see you about to break, but also see the determination that rises from your love of teaching, that allows you to bend. I see that what you are fighting for is our kids, every one of them. I know that your army is strong, but with your strength also comes the exhaustion and frustration your battle has brought to you.
I see you, and I thank you…for without you, my children would not be who they are today. You taught them what I was not able to. You taught them how to read, how to write a persuasive argument, you brought them back in time through your history lessons, you taught them calculus (I stopped helping with math around grade 5), you exposed them to a foreign language and culture, you brought them your joy and love for music, your exuberance for the sciences to their biology, chemistry and physics classes, you brought your subject knowledge and you brought yourself.
Without teachers, where would any of us be? My side is with the teachers, my teachers, our teachers. I know there will always be contrary thoughts and opinions to be shared. That is what sets us apart, our freedom of speech. For my children’s teachers…my heartfelt gratitude to you. There must be something to be said about the teachers my children have had for proof is in the pudding! My oldest daughter became a teacher and now my youngest is at college studying to be? You guessed it...a teacher. When I asked “why teach?” Her response “everyone deserves to have great teachers, I think I could be one.” She speaks from her past, her experience, her mentors, her beloved teachers. She was taught by some of the best, now she wants to follow in their footsteps. I couldn’t be prouder. Thank you all…you have left a lasting impression on the hearts and souls of my children. There is no greater gift a parent could ask for. So when the forces that be attempt to drag you to your knees, remember there are parents, like me, who stand beside you with the support you need to stand tall.
Elizabeth Moniz Eminger