Unpopular Opinion: Martyrs & Failures
I do not love my students. Or rather, I do not love most of my students. Don’t get me wrong. I do not hate them either. I find many of them charming, intelligent, fun, eager to learn, and — on occasion — quick witted. In my experience, working with children is far more enjoyable than working with adults. So… while I do not love the vast majority of my students, I do like them. It should come as no surprise to learn that I also like teaching.
However, I find movies and books such as Stand and Deliver, Freedom Writers, The Ron Clark Story, and many others disturbing, if not offensive. There is a mindset on display in these movies and books that screams, “Good teachers sacrifice everything for their students!” This is an appallingly glamorized “teacher as martyr” concept so ingrained in our society that many educators suffer from a condition called “teacher martyr syndrome.”
Worse than that though? Much of the public buys into this idea. To them, teachers are either martyrs or failures.
Me though? I’m neither.
I like my students. I like teaching them. I like helping them learn. But — real talk — I do not want to die for them.
So… what am I going to do in the Fall when, invariably, I am asked to go back into the petri dish of public education, to the career and students that I like?
If my doctors say I can, I’m going to go back.
And if I get infected, if I die, and anyone calls me a martyr or treats me like one, or honors me for my sacrifice, I would like someone to ask them this: “How many martyrs died for something they only liked?”
If I die from COVID-19 as a result of my career as an educator, I’m no martyr. I’m no failure.
I’m a victim.