Educators: Our Legacy
Throughout the entire span of human history, professional educators have daily grappled with the quandary of transforming students into scholars. The stressors of that overwhelming task often demotes the task to teaching. For the teacher, the task of honing the qualities of analysis, scholarship, and inspired intellectual inquiry is herculean at the least; for the educator, it is simply a matter of nurturing in others the qualities that have been nurtured in themselves.
An effective professional educator understands their role and responsibility to their students. They are neither slave nor savior, but support. They seek to instill in their students the value of self-awareness and the role of hope in academic pursuits. The zero-calorie educator—the teacher—is concerned with the ephemeral and myopic values of content mastery and regurgitation. They perceive themselves as working on or for their students as opposed to working with them. A curriculum founded on the latter values will imbue the student with a cache of knowledge and strategies but without a direction or objective on which to focus their energies. The result is a student—a co-dependent agent easily swayed by sweet words and content with judgments rooted in emotion, not reason. A curriculum founded on the former values will imbue the student with reason and a reason to connect information in ways that yield understanding and wisdom for specific purposes and objectives. The result is a scholar—an interdependent agent who is guided by and in the service of effectual work that propels themselves and their communities forward. If our students are to become scholars, the curriculum and educator must leave them well-fed physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Human beings are social animals—our nature requires nurture in order to thrive. When a person perceives an obstacle as impossible to overcome, a challenge as unconquerable, a question as unanswerable, or a problem as unsolvable, for what reason do they have to strive? If they are constantly in fear of failure, for what reason do they have to try? When a person does not believe in themselves and their abilities, for what reason do they have to live? The hope with which we are innately born can be easily dismantled by fear if we are not taught what it is, how to use it, where it comes from, and why—this, the educator intuitively commands while the scholar innately demands.
Teachers concern themselves with the appearance of success. They adjust their standards and expectations to align to contrived, socially accepted measurements and criteria. They shackle themselves to group psychology and work in fear of rejection. Their professional lives are incurably defined by an external locus of control as they have fallen prey to oppressive rhetoric. They fear reason. They lack hope. They are victims of, and slave to, scripts.
Educators concern themselves with the genuine pursuit of self-awareness and improvement. They use socially contrived evaluation criteria as tools to frame social understanding rather than to draw conclusions and make inferences about perceived ability. True educators keenly understand that potential is unquantifiable—a person with hope can achieve the improbable despite the obstacles in their path.
The educator's first student is themselves as scholars are committed to a life-long pursuit of wisdom—and the wise need only fear God. They refuse to relinquish their fundamental idealism, deigning to kneel before the gods of materialism and cynicism. The world does not shape them; they shape the world. They do not have hope, they are hope. They know fear, but they are not ruled by it. My dear colleagues: what do we have to fear? We can neither feign to learn nor deign to yearn.
We cannot be slave to systems. Fear unmercifully taints reason; thus, freedom is necessary for scholarship. Not physical freedom—even idealism can only extend so far—but mental liberation. We must believe that the conceivable is achievable no matter how farfetched or improbable it may seem and be tempered only by utility. After all, where would we be if early man refused to walk for fear of falling?
We are all educators. We are all innately imbued with the understanding and wisdom to guide ourselves and others toward self-actualization. However, few of us are called or created to be professional educators. And despite the demands and nature of the job, in any context, true educators do not confuse the job with the work. We must, of course, respect the process, but we cannot deny the promise—hope. We cannot nurture in others what does not exist in ourselves. There can be no hope for the future if there is no hope for the present, and we are all present because of educators.
Share the legacy.
©2017 Kevin J. Quail, II. All rights reserved
Kevin J. Quail, II is an experienced, certified Special Educator and Advocate. For over a decade, he has worked as a direct hire and independent contractor in public, private, and charter K-12 as well as college school environments in various capacities, including: Test Prep teacher, IB Librarian/Media Specialist, Tutor, Substitute, ESL teacher, Humanities/College Prep teacher, English, and GED prep teacher. He currently works as an independent research-practitioner and service provider serving in both the Honolulu and Washington, DC metropolitan areas to provide tutoring, homeschool support, test preparation, substitute teaching, special education services, curriculum design, advocacy, professional development and coaching for students, parents, schools, and other independent educators.