During natural disasters, political discord, or times of great uncertainty, we desperately look for heroes. Someone to make things better, rescue us, or tell us that everything will be OK. Especially the youngest and most impressionable among us.
Some of us look to the government. To guide us, to use our precious resources in thoughtful, intelligent ways. To improve the lives of the most unfortunate among us and to be a beacon of hope.
Some look inward, to ourselves. We work to be own source of strength, to pull ourselves up and forge our own path.
Still others look to entrepreneurs and business leaders to develop new and creative solutions to the world’s problems. To inspire innovation and help us reach our potential through giant leaps in technology and the human spirit.
But I’ll tell you who I often look to. I look to teachers. Teachers are heroes.
Teachers are unsung heroes, the hidden leaders fighting to make the world better through small, measurable actions every single day. They may not wear superhero capes or hold high public office. But they are truly the ones who have the capacity, determination, and intelligence to move provide respite during storms of uncertainty.
When disaster strikes, teachers are often the “first responders” for kids who are searching for an explanation. The fact of the matter is that, during times of strife both natural and man-made, the casualties oftentimes extend far beyond the area of impact. Young minds are grasping for answers, for explanations. The classroom becomes both a safe haven and a new type of learning environment in which dedicated educators quickly have to pivot from teaching standards and test prep to explaining how the world works. They assuage fears, boost confidence, and give their students the tools they need to be strong moving forward.
Through sheer force of will, teachers know how to get things done when even the most powerful among us seem incapable. They are capable of molding young lives and inspiring to greatness the minds of our future leaders. They cut through the sound and the fury of the outside world and lead by example.
I have seen countless examples of teachers helping their students, families, and other teachers in times of need.
Like the teacher who made a mountain of baked goods for refugee kids in the wake of Charlottesville. Not because it would help eradicate hatred, but because it was a small kindness that let fearful kids know that they were seen and that they were loved.
While it’s easy to think that these simple actions, that these small gestures of love might not go very far in solving the world’s most pressing problems, I’d argue that progress is built on a foundation of tiny, everyday moments of grace.
That the child whose teacher helps him build confidence in the face of discrimination might grow up to become a great civic leader.
That a student who doesn’t like reading may be inspired to a lifetime of learning by a dedicated educator who saw potential and refused to give up.
That a young girl who thinks the world might not be as open to her as it is to others could, given the proper encouragement by her teachers, kick down doors for herself and others.
Teachers change the world because they change lives. Sometimes one life at a time, one day at a time. And then those lives go on to change other lives. And then those lives go on to push the world slowly forward.
It’s easy to forget that progress, that relief to suffering, doesn’t come all at once. Oftentimes it comes slowly, if at all. It’s even easier to think that when horrible things happen, we should give up hope. That we may as well fall back on despair, not knowing what we can do or how we can make a difference.
But in those moments of darkness when we are looking for someone to save us, we need look no farther than to the teachers we encounter every day. If we follow their example of how they help one another and then replicate their kindness, the world might get better just a little less slowly.
And when we fail, which we will time and time again, we can rest assured that teachers will always be there to pick up our slack.
No challenge can defeat them. No roadblock can intimidate them. No hurricane can stand in their way.
If you want to show your support for the teachers affected by the hurricanes, wildfires, and more, use any of the hashtags listed above. We also have two images to share with you here that you can use as your profile image for social media. It’s a quick and easy way to show that you are #TeacherStrong and support other educators.