“It’s not that they’re stupid; it’s just they don’t know anything.” ~ Edward James Olmos as Jaime Escalante, “Stand and Deliver” (1988).
“Stand and Deliver” is an old-time favorite movie of mine.
It represents so much of what I stand for as an educator myself—expectation from administration for students to achieve, the squirrelly nature of the students as they strive to do so, and the grace of the educator dancing in a way that both connects with the students and satiates the administration.
There are obstacles, no doubt, in the growth of any student. It takes personal grit, passion, and encouragement from someone they know who cares to build the resiliency it takes to overcome.
I sit at the island in my kitchen in the mornings with my coffee and creamer. Lately, the sun is already streaming into the east facing window which always has a calming effect on me. As I do this, like so many of us do these days, I take in the news.
As I watch, I connect that “Stand and Deliver” quote to how the masses both around me and on social media respond to the news: “It’s not that they’re stupid; it’s just they don’t know anything.”
So many of us are simply doing our best to survive in an uncertain world. I watch how some react—people around me, people showcased on the news, and at times, myself.
Uncertainty causes us to feel threatened. The unknown is a saber-toothed cat, and our bodies and minds go into survival mode—the same “fight, flight, or freeze” response we learned about long ago.
I see this demonstrated by students in our schools all the time. Our classrooms are like the world; the administration is our government. They administer the mandates and blanket guidelines that the masses are expected to follow. If the people feel safe and supported, they respond in calm. If the people feel constricted and unsafe, they often react with the various survival responses.
But there’s also a third type of person key to the survival of both the literal and global classrooms—teachers.
Mister Fred Rogers said, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” These helpers are the teachers, and oftentimes, in life, they don’t know they are teaching. They are genuine and passionate and, best of all, they will often catch the attention of others to wrangle a listening ear.
So many hearts are struggling with uncertainty, fear, and the effects of isolation—obstacles to everyday living and survival. These obstacles are continually created by the chaos, panic, and “stupidity” we see in the media so often blind to its own reactions (yes, social media, too). Again, the phrase comes to mind: “It’s not that they are stupid; it’s just they don’t know anything.”
Here’s where the helpers come in. The helpers—the teachers in life—will have compassion for all because they know most people are doing the best they can; they will encourage others from their heart space, because they care.
They teach by setting an example and show in actions the calm, grit, and passion needed by the masses to overcome this widespread obstacle.
They will dance gracefully between this squirrelly classroom of the world we live in while respecting the governing body by following mandates and blanket guidelines to be a good example.
If they do not agree with the administration, they will advocate for the masses for beneficial change.
Sometimes I am able to take my real-life role as a teacher into my daily life and function as one of the helpers we so desperately need. Others, I am just as blind as everyone else.
My hope is that the helpers—the teachers—will make a difference in this world classroom and continue by their example to patiently educate the minds of those who do not yet know. My hope is that in doing so, more will begin to know something a little more often.
We all take our turn with obstacles. We come out of them either stronger because of the experience, or jaded by and resentful of it until we reach grace.
Life turns upside-down. Uncertainty and the unknown loom ahead. Right now, we fear in isolation. But whenever we come to that place of fear, can we strive to be more like the teacher than reactive students? Can we strive to always find that graceful middle ground?
May we all strive to have compassion for the masses.