Stress, secondary trauma, and all the varying obstacles in education can lead to educators asking themselves, "Do my efforts really matter?" Heap on top of the "normal" challenges to be found in this profession the weight of the challenges of 2020, it would be easy--even justified--to just withdraw any emotional investment whatsoever.
But please don't.
If you've known us professionally, you know that we often share the real and raw of our personal experiences as they relate to our passion for marginalized children and the people who serve them. We are here to tell you from a very tender place in our parental hearts that the answer is yes, what you do matters.
On the evening of December 14, 2020, our 15-year-old son's best friend and running partner, Noah, died in a tragic accident. Before this news was made public, Noah's parents entrusted the school with delivering this news to our son. While the principal was telling us about losing Noah, the boys' cross country coach was en route to our home to sit with K'Tyo (not ideal in the midst of Covid, but he came anyway, masked). As the day progressed, we received phone call after phone call from teachers, a school counselor, coaches, all the way up to, and including, the superintendent. At this point we should mention that we have only been living in this community since 2018, so we shed many tears with people we've never even met in person. Some of them didn't even know our son, but had heard about the boys' relationship. The outpouring of support has been ongoing since that day in spite of the logistical obstacles created by the pandemic.
We have always held firm to the belief that in order to avoid compassion fatigue and burnout, a critical self-care strategy is to not lose sight of why we do what we do and to never forget it matters, even when we might not see it straightaway. Inspiration for this post came from Noah himself when his parents shared a memory on social media shortly after his passing about an assignment he completed in middle school (we are sharing with their permission). Noah identified and delivered a speech about his hero, Mr. Antrim, his cross country coach and teacher. He said Mr. Antrim was his hero because he "built his confidence as a runner and an individual, he valued hard work and being a positive person in the world spreading kindness." Noah's mom, Julie, went on to say in her post,
"For all the teachers out there who think, especially at the end of the year, the work you do goes unnoticed or you're not impressionable, as a parent, I am telling you you absolutely are."
Here's the hard part: The emotional investment every one of Noah's educators made into his life has caused them to feel the very pain our son is feeling. It's hard and it hurts, but folks, it matters even more now because their own connections with Noah allow them to forge authentic connections with our son and all who loved Noah. These are the kinds of relationships that strengthen communities and help them move forward in hope.
So yes, "it" matters. You matter. Your influence matters. Within strong, connected communities, children will learn lessons way beyond the textbook.
It is an extraordinary time to be in education. You've become masters at making it work, but really, you always have been. 2020 just brought new material. As we seek the light at the end of the tunnel with this pandemic and navigate the racial and political tensions that have surfaced over this past year, we truly believe our schools are going to be essential in the reconnecting of our communities. Do not carry this statement as a burden; rather, receive it as honor, respect, and recognition of the powerful role you serve. Press on, Warriors of HOPE. It matters.
Please feel free to share this post with others who need to be reminded they matter. If sharing on social media, you can easily share the post from our Facebook or Twitter page (links on icons at bottom of page) & add the hashtag #believelikeNoahLong (his family created this hashtag as a way to honor Noah by "believing in yourself so much that people think your dreams are crazy" because this was so Noah). Dream big, friends, about your impact in this world, believing that it matters.