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It takes courage

— I have always been proud to be a teacher, and I have always been proud of teachers. I have a button that says, “Teachers are my heroes.”

It takes courage to teach.

Teaching requires conviction. It requires self-confidence and a sense that one is doing the right thing in the right way for the right reasons. It requires people to do the right thing at the right time. It requires the resolve to stand up to the fact that we live in a society that is all too ready to assign blame to teachers when the artificial standards that society sets are not met. We are all too ready to declare that things need to be fixed, that we could do a better job, and that we could solve the problems of education.

And now we must mourn the loss of six of our colleagues who died doing not what teachers do, but doing what heroes do.

Alas, we have somewhat devalued the term “hero.” People are not heroes for doing the things they are expected to do. Heroic acts go beyond the ordinary. They go beyond the day-to-day expectations. They embody the greater actions of selfless response to situations that are often beyond the ability of people to prepare for or to comprehend.

I am intensely sad that it takes tragedy to enhance respect. It took the events of 9/11 to make us accord “first responders” the respect they had long ago earned but had not received. Now it will have taken the tragic event in Connecticut to do the same for teachers.

Teachers have always been first responders. Other than parents, they are the first to respond to the critical need to educate our children, to guide them and lead them, to point them in the right direction.

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