by: Alex Stubenbort
“Words may show a man’s wit, but actions his meaning.”-Benjamin Franklin
The bell rings and hallways fill. It is another day in the books at Lecanto Middle School. A herd of students rush to retrieve their belongings from their lockers before making a mad dash to busses—FREEDOM! In such an environment, outliers tend to stand out. New students walking slowly, looking around aimlessly for someone to lend them a proverbial hand; parent pickup students moseying along without a care in the world, especially for their parent waiting in the god forsaken pickup line; and, the most nauseating of the outliers, the young lovers. Pimple-faced pubescents staring longingly into each other’s eyes seeking some kind of truth to believe in; it’s enough to make you vomit.
On this particular day, I broke up a couple of repeat offenders, rolled my eyes, shook my head, and joined my colleagues at the end of the hallway for a chat celebrating the end of another hard day’s work. The colleague I struck up a conversation with first was a young lady I’m honored to serve as a mentor teacher, Hailey Betiko (@mrsbetiko). After she asked what I was doing down the hallway, I responded, “Breaking up a pair of future teen parents,” and carried on with the conversation at hand.
The sad part is, I didn’t bat an eye while making the aforementioned sny remark. I carried on in conversation about TV programming, favorite restaurants in the area, and next week’s lesson plans before returning to my classroom to tie up some lose ends. After checking students’ progress on their Genius Hour blogs, rearranging my desk (ever-so-slightly to give the impression that I’m at least TRYING to stay organized), and calling a few parents, I did what I often do before shutting down my laptop; I checked the statistics from last night’s blog post. I searched for the title The Parable of the Dung-Flingin’ Educator. “34 views” my WordPress account reads. “Not great, but not awful either,” I think to myself before closing my laptop.
Then it hit me. Like a ton of bricks dropped on my chest, it hit me. “Alex Stubenbort, you are a lousy, no good hypocrite!” The post I finished writing just a night ago preached the doctrine of searching beyond a child’s circumstance to find the potential within; to move past assuming the child is a story already written; to understand that, as teachers, we actually have the opportunity day in and day out to change the trajectory of a human life for the better! And yet, in my school’s hallway, speaking to a first year teacher I’ve been entrusted to bring up in good solid pedagogy and ethical practices, I drop the flippin’ ball. Theory and practice met that day and practice didn’t quite get the job done.
I reached for my phone and, too embarassed to call, texted Hailey apologizing for what I had called the young man and woman I urged to move along in the hallway. I let her know that it was unacceptable to believe that those children’s lives were predestined by their circumstance despite the immeasurable odds stacked against them. Because of my blog, I was confronted with my own beliefs and realized that my behaviors didn’t quite match up.
Without blogging playing an integral part in my practice, I have no mirror to hold up to the face of my actions. Thanks to my blog, I have written documentation of what I STRIVE to be as an educator and a man. Despite the fact that it was never foreseen as an outcome, my blog’s ability to hold me accountable has been its greatest gift. I urge all educators to blog. Not in the name of building your “brand”; not for notariaty, popularity, or praise; but in the name of avoiding becoming jaded to the business we all play such an important role in; the business of seeing hope in an otherwise hopeless situation; the business of being a light in the darkness; the business of defeating our own prejudices and preconceived notions in the name of faith in a better tomorrow for ALL kids.