Great Power, Great Responsibility
Last Tuesday I pulled my six-year-old girl out of school.
I’ve agonized over the decision for weeks. Many of you know that I intended to wait. I wanted her to finish grade one with her friends. I wanted her to have four more months with the fabulous woman she’s been blessed with for a teacher. I wanted the transition to be gentle.
None of that happened.
Out of respect for Noelle’s privacy, I won’t share details here. But my girl begged me to let her learn at home. And once I’d shared her concerns with a couple of close psychologist friends, I realized it didn’t matter if her request fit my plans. Pulling her now was what we had to do.
The next day BC teachers voted to strike.
The last seven days have been overloaded with emotion and activity. I told only our close family and friends about the switch. I didn’t want to burden anyone else with the fallout of our decision. I didn’t want to give opportunity for opponents to tell me they told me so. So, I stayed quiet, kept smiling, and chose to look at the bright side.
The thing is, the bright side of homeschooling can be very, very bright indeed.
Noelle appreciates the extra time to get ready in the morning. She adores the one-on-one attention. Her inquisitive mind loves being able to ask any question she wants without concern for the thirty-plus other children who need her teacher’s attention (seriously, how they do it I’ll never know). At the end of the day, even when I have to refocus her repeatedly, motivate her to finish her math lesson when she’d rather go play, or correct her when she fails to show friendly behavior to her sister (I’m forever grateful to her Kindergarten teacher for the kind of behavior she reinforced in her classroom), Noelle still says, “I love learning at home, Mom.”
Still, every night I go to sleep, overwhelmed with the thought that this is all up to me, now.
It’s not, really. Noelle is registered with a school. We have a teacher that supports our family and ensures Curriculum Guidelines are met. We have a principal who cares about the welfare of his students. There are support groups, more curriculum options than you’d ever possibly have time to research, and the valuable input of friends and family.
But in the back of my head every morning, I think, my child’s education is entirely within my hands.
What was it that Spider-Man‘s Uncle Ben said again?
With great power comes great responsibility.
You’d think homeschooling families wouldn’t be affected by the strike.
In terms of where my kids go each day, then no, we’re not affected. But the controversy is unavoidable. I can’t seem to go or be anywhere without having someone tell me what they think – or worse, what I ought to think – about the dispute. And, as someone who doesn’t do well with being told what to think about anything, I’ve been a bit… conflicted.
I’ve tried to keep this an internal conflict. I’ve not known exactly what concerned me. I was afraid feeling unsettled meant I was angry at someone, or I was angry with one particular side, and I was afraid that made me a judgmental person.
I also saw what happened to those who voiced their dissension – with either side – on social media. They were at best, chastised; at worst, condemned.
And so I’ve read, I’ve thought, and I’ve taught my kids.
After seven days, I realized that I’m not angry at anyone. I think I’m just sad.
Is education an essential service? I’m not sure. But I do know the effects of education should not be overlooked.
When I went to university, I thought I knew all the things to think. I’d been to school for thirteen years, thank you very much, and I graduated with excellent grades. These university classes wouldn’t be challenging so much as they would be interesting.
Ah, the ignorance of youth.
The more interesting my classes, the more they challenged – even offended – me. The idea that I didn’t have it all figured out shook me. The possibility of another perspective equally valid to mine made me want to throw my books on the floor and storm off.
Most troubling of all was the potential I was just plain wrong.
Too often we confuse worth with being right. Worse, we mistake it for winning. But winning belongs in wars – sports, for example, were initially developed to train young men for war – and not in healthy relationships. As our marriage counselor used to say, successful partnerships use more dialogue than debate.
Of course, wars have a place. They begin when dialogue ends.
So do strikes.
It worries me that my government feels so comfortable violating the constitution. It scares me that they think up to fifty children per public school class is not only acceptable, but safe.
But what makes me really sad is that this is how they teach our children to resolve conflict.
This, this, from the most educated country in the world.
A well-trained mind brings opportunity, confidence, and hope – hope for change, hope for growth, hope for improvement.
But the best education also brings maturity.
One of the marks of maturity is how we handle opposition.
I’ll be the first one to admit I often don’t handle opposition well. But I want to get better. And I know that the sooner I ask other people their opinion and the slower I am to spout mine, the more I learn.
Which makes me wonder – just as I wonder after every marital disagreement my kids witness – what do the kids learn from this very public, very heated disagreement between two of the most powerful groups in the province?
Hopefully they learn that there are some people who willingly sacrifice reputation and comfort to protect their welfare. Hopefully they see the importance of advocacy, risk, and respectful opposition.
But what if that’s not what they see?
What if all they see is a war? What if all they see are two parties who are so unwilling to listen to each other that they just keep shouting back and forth until the other side gives in?
What do they learn then? To stand up for themselves? To push back harder? To prove they’re bigger and stronger?
What kind of world is that?
Moms, dads, uncles, aunts, grandparents, its time we stop seeing our government – or our teachers – as the only ones responsible for our children’s education. No matter where our children go to school – public, private, or home locations – we are the ones ultimately responsible for how they grow up.
We are the ones responsible for their maturity.
Those teachers who wake up like this mother – sobered by the power given them, nervous at what happens if they don’t do it right – deserve every single penny they make and more. Those dedicated individuals are an essential service to society.
We can’t afford to lose them.
I guess if it were up to me, teachers would have everything they needed to make every child’s experience at school utterly amazing.
But, if it were up to me, every teacher would put their heart and soul into their profession.
Many of them already do.
Many of them already know they’ve been given great power.
And those who do also know:
With great power comes great responsibility.
So, teachers, union representatives, government officials, and negotiators, please consider this a plea from a frustrated mother. You’re all on a very big stage right now. What you do – and how you do it – is visible to everyone, even children who learn by distance like mine. And while some kids will only remember the days they didn’t have to go to school, others will be watching you very, very closely. How you handle this – and not just which side ‘wins’ – will teach them more powerfully than almost anything you do in the classroom – or in legislature.
Please respect our children.
If you do, you have my unequivocal support.