Tomorrow, or maybe early Wednesday morning, we will know the fate of Jefferson County Public Schools and the children we serve. I wanted to write this today, a public challenge to myself for which I can be held accountable, and to my fellow Jeffco citizens.
This election will put many of us who have cared passionately about the outcome into one category or the other. We will be winners or losers, and no matter which side we took, we will most likely believe that 85,000 children won or lost with us. Emotions will run deep.
Win or lose, I hope that we will remember that we are not each other’s enemies. No matter what signs your neighbors had in their yards, no matter what they said when you knocked on their doors, they are your neighbors. Hard times will fall on all of us, and we will bring each other meals. We will watch each other’s homes while families go on vacations. We will report suspicious people snooping around each other’s houses.
Win or lose, we Jeffco teachers are each other’s colleagues. Whether we work at neighborhood, charter, or option schools, we care about our kids.
I’m human. I’ll stumble. Win or lose, I will be as tempted as anyone to feel smug and superior or angry and bitter. I know I will. But I resolve not to fall. I intend to stop and remember the inherent worth, dignity, and humanity of everyone around me, even those I believe were wrong, or selfish, or lazy. I will reach for humility and forgiveness. At least, I promise to start trying really hard no later than Thursday. I’ll stumble. I’m human.
Win or lose, I will never forget the amazing people I have met in the course of this battle. I don’t even want to try to name them all here, because I know I’ll accidentally leave out someone–there are just so many. What a blessing! There have been organizers and foot soldiers, the most incredible mass of loving warriors I could ever imagine. Nothing can ever truly diminish my faith in my fellow human beings because I have met hundreds of our species’ finest.
Win or lose, I have gained a profound pride in being a union member. This was such a peripheral aspect of my profession for the first 25 years of my career, but as I have served in a leadership role, working closely with other leaders at the state and district levels, I have gained such appreciation for what our organization does for kids. I will never again be misled by stereotypes. I have been at countless closed-door meetings, heard what goes on at the highests levels, and now, no matter what tiny sound-bites get twisted by the media and teacher-bashers, I will know the context. I will remember how every single major retreat or training began with all of us sharing why public schools matter to us–and it was never about compensation. It was about kids and the future of our country every time. I know how tirelessly our tiny staff has worked–hours far beyond their financial compensation. One fought the battle literally up until he died. I will never forget when I lost a student to a heroin overdose and John Ford, president of JCEA, had just lost a former student to suicide, and we sat together and grieved in silence. Win or lose, I will have this forever.
Win or lose, I will walk into school on Wednesday morning and be the teacher my students deserve.