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Empty Vessels on a Shaky Foundation

Empty Vessels on a Shaky Foundation

My wife and I grew up with parents who carried the heavy burden of the Great Depression deep in their bones. Even as time marched on, the shadows of those lean years would find ways to reveal themselves in ways that would seem most peculiar to folks today.

You see, to our fathers, an empty ketchup bottle was a concept that didn’t exist until every last speck of that ruby-red Heinz had vanished. They aimed to get every speck of the red stuff out of the bottle, even if it meant adding a splash of tap water and giving it a good shake. Sometimes, they were too generous with the water, and we’d end up with pink ketchup soup on our plates. But no matter how diluted, they would not let it go to waste.

Running on Empty

And as I walked out of school today, I had two thoughts: First, I am the academic equivalent of that seemingly empty ketchup bottle. I am physically, emotionally, and mentally drained to the core, with my mind swearing there’s not a drop of energy left to share with my students.

Second, schools have operated for years under institutional policies that use teachers up emotionally and wear them out physically. Instead of having the resources and support we need, we’ve had to make it do. All too often, we have done without the parental, administrative, political, and societal support we need.

As for the first issue, 27 years of experience have shown me that, come this time of year, my fellow educators and I will muster up the strength to return, day after day, giving our students whatever remains in our batteries. That’s a temporal condition that will defuse after some time away from the pressures of school.

Feet of Clay

The bigger and more enduring problem is that our schools today rest on feet of clay, and nobody knows it like the people who work in classrooms day after day, year after year. After enduring the unstable groundwork for years, numerous educators depart in anticipation of the impending collapse they recognize as inevitable.

But it does not have to be this way. If you want to know how to shore up the system’s foundation, you must listen to those in the educational trenches and then act.

P.S. I am aware that numerous well-intentioned individuals in authoritative roles acknowledge the significant challenges plaguing our education system and desire to assist. However, their efforts are often hindered by those with even greater authority.