“Pay it forward…part 87”

         As teachers, we go to battle for our students all the time. We do those extra things that we aren’t paid for but that we know are in the best interests of our students.

         Through the years, I couldn’t begin to count the number of times that I have gone to battle for students–the times that I have written extra recommendation letters or have proof-read their college entrance essays for them or have been used as reference for students who are trying to get hired for a job.

         In any given year, I write at least a dozen letters of recommendation for students that they need as they apply to competitive universities. Next year, because of the classes that I am teaching THIS year, I anticipate that I will be writing three or four-dozen letters of recommendation.

         Writing these letters is time-consuming and comes with a great deal of pressure because their dreams—indeed their fates—are sometimes resting on these letters.

         If we said “No” to requests for writing these letters, we would not face any consequences, because it’s not part of the official job that we have as teachers: it’s not in our contract or anything. However, it is part of the social contract we have with these students. It’s the right thing to do, so most of us do it with little complaint. We realize that there were people who did the same for us when we were getting into college or graduate school or getting our first teaching job, and this is how we repay that debt: we pay it forward to the next generation.

         We metaphorically “go to bat” for the generations behind us. It’s the right thing to do.

         I’ve been thinking about this issue a lot lately, because I am silently (and sometimes vocally) wishing that the public would go to bat for public education.

         Most of us went through public school. Most of us, whether we want to acknowledge it or not, are where we are today because of the foundation we got in public school. Perhaps our education got us into a good college, which then led to a good job. Or perhaps our education revealed to us where our passions are—or perhaps it revealed to us where our passions aren’t. Whatever the case, public education benefited most of the adults in this country in significant ways.

         It’s time to step up and make sure that we continue to pay that debt forward. We can’t go back and pay for our public education, just as my students can’t really ever pay me for all of the letters that I write them—nor would I want them to. I want them to “pay it forward,” and that’s what I tell them when they thank me or when they ask what they can do in return.

         As a society, we need to pay our public education debt forward, as well. We need to go to battle for the children of our society.

         They are getting cheated in ways that most of us did not experience. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it many times in the future: public education is under attack. There are reasons for that—mostly that there’s a lot of money to be made in privatizing education, which benefits already rich adults, but not our children.

         Our children need us to go to bat for them, they need us to pay it forward. If they do not see that happening, how will they ever learn that that’s how a healthy society pays a debt?

         I would argue that, no matter what people’s views are of public education (and of course I am referring mostly to politicians and to private entities that are making huge money right now), we need to take care of our children if for no other reason than we would want them to take care of theirs—our grandchildren.

         Someone better be there to take care of my grandkids and my great-grandkids….Image

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