The Emperor is Buck Naked

I can’t lie. There are days I absolutely hate my job. Before armchair quarterbacks, soothsayers and prognosticators try to psychoanalyze me, I’ll tell you. It’s not because of a person. It’s not because of an incident. It’s because the emperor wears no clothes.

I don’t know why this memory has stuck with me, but in Ms Garrison’s preschool class at Southern Hills Methodist Church, a group came to present a play based on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Don’t worry. There was no nudity. But I remember how enthralled I was at the performance, the actors and the story. How could someone fool the emperor to think he was wearing such splendid garments? Why would no one tell him the truth? How was it so obvious to a little boy? Was he courageous or just naive? (Ok, I didn’t know what “naïve” meant when I was four, but that question has evolved for me over the years).

So back to me hating my job on some days. I hate it because I’m tired of being overly stressed from being under resourced. I’m tired of politicians claiming they are pro-education during an election year and then taking no action to resolve crises that affect real people and real students. I’m tired of them intentionally violating a law in our state that says the education budget must be in place by April 1. If I was a month or more behind a deadline at work, I’d be fired. I’m tired of political elites using students, schools and teachers as political piñatas to play with, take a swing at and laugh at when they bust open. I’m tired of budget discussions and decisions being made by an oligarchy who hides behind closed doors until a few days before the end of the legislative session to finally roll out a plan so their members have to take it or leave it. Before this is construed as bashing the party in power, there’s plenty of blame for the ever shrinking minority party as well. They play rhetorical games at times by decrying a lack of funding then arguing against revenue raising measures unless they meet their interest’s agenda. I’m tired of politicians writing laws without ever coming to a school, speaking to a parent group, sitting in a classroom as a test monitor for mandated exams they deem critical, or looking a student in the eye to tell them that their drama program or art class or sports team is eliminated due to an unwillingness to address the elephant in the room. Our state is broke and the emperor is buck naked! Inaction and indecision are really a decision to not act and to let the hole get deeper and the crisis grow more precarious.

Blame the oil industry. There are enough haters there. Blame the Middle East for low prices. There are plenty of voices to rail against them. Blame renewable energy companies and subsidies. They are fair game in these political winds. Blame Democrats who used to be in power (but haven’t been in a LONG time). Blame Republicans who hold EVERY statewide office and have an overwhelming majority in both houses of the legislature. Blame a wing of a party. Blame past leaders. Blame present leaders. Blame the educators. Blame the system. Blame the parents. Blame the kids. Blame a lack of religion. Blame the presence of religion. Blame Kevin Durant for leaving the Thunder. Blame anything you want and create a hashtag for social media. You’ll get some favorites and retweets. Just don’t dare look in the mirror. You might notice that you’re missing you’re britches.

Speaking of looking in the mirror, here’s a challenge. How about you stand in front of one ask yourself, “Did I do my absolute best for the future (the kids) of this state?” I look each day and ask myself if I did all I could for the students in my school. Some days I don’t feel very good about my answer. I let them down. I let teachers down. I let parents down. I let myself down. That’s another reason I hate my job on some days.

I hate looking at teachers who take their profession seriously and personally. They take their students’ lack of resources or lack of proficiency seriously. They take their setbacks and failures seriously. They take their poor choices personally. They carry it around and drive home each evening beating themselves up, not celebrating what went right, but perseverating on what went wrong. I hate to look at educators who are asked to do more and more with less and less while working with increasing numbers of students.

I hate listening to parents who are stressed and worried about personal struggles, whether illness, job-related, family dysfunction, addiction or just being worn down by the daily grind. I hate it when they are at a loss for how to meet the emotional, physical or academic needs of their children.

I hate sitting across from students who struggle with the battles of life that happen all around them before they ever walk into school and wait to pounce on them the moment they leave. I hate to look in their eyes as they are starting to give up and give in. I hate to see the change from hope to hopelessness, from faith to fear and from belief to apathy.

I hate that part of my job and I hate that I can’t fix the problems I see. I can say the emperor is wearing no clothes. I can see the system is broken. I can recognize deficiencies. I just feel powerless sometimes. And I absolutely hate feeling powerless.

So what? Am I going to cry? I know some of the devoted do and they do it because of the compassion they have for their students. Am I going to whine? Blog writing may be as close as I get to whining. Am I going to raise my voice and cry out that the emperor wears no clothes? Am I going to advocate and yell for those who either don’t have a voice or haven’t found it yet?

I sure am. I don’t do it for you Mr or Ms Legislator. I don’t work for your approval. I don’t do it for accolades of colleagues. I have plenty of critics who feel I don’t measure up in a number of categories. I do it for them…for those students who show up each day because they know they are cared for and prayed for. For those students who show up because they still think they have a chance to make it. Even though there are days I hate feeling stressed about my job, I’d hate myself more if I didn’t show up and do it for them. I’d hate if I gave in and gave up, so I’ll show up tomorrow and I’ll do it for them.

10 thoughts on “The Emperor is Buck Naked

  1. You have summed up the feelings I felt for years in teaching. I did all I could to help “my kids” (anyone who was in my school not just in my class). I continued to help “my kids” when they came back as teachers and did and do their best as well. I am so proud of all “my kids” when I hear of their accomplishments as adults. I was proud to add the “kids of my kids” to my group of “kids”. I am proud to have some of “my kids” among my friends today. I am so proud of you for your blog and for your “showing up tomorrow” for your “kids” and your “teachers”. You have become one of the BEST- an administrator who is first a teacher and who CARES. Keep on being such a marvelous example.

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    • Thank you so much for your encouraging words. Caring for kids was modeled so well for me by you and so many others in Moore Public Schools. I know we’re not alone and our kids will continue to benefit from our commitment. Thanks for your service and for always being my Teacher.

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  2. I am not now nor have I ever been a teacher ( just to paraphrase McCarthy etc) But….I am a parent of kids that are now adults. I know how important education is, how important a good teacher is, how important it is to have a teacher that believes in you and will encourage or occasionally kick your ass ( yes my very bright son did need this from some teachers! and I’m speaking metaphorically not physically). So I would just like to say You Are Right. You are Doing the Right Thing here and it is a pleasure to read this post. thank you.

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    • Thanks for the encouragement Anne. There are so many great teachers that walk that line from gentle encouragement to coaching through hard conversations and letting students know that their personal best demands more effort. It’s good to know your own children experienced that first hand.

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  3. Teachers and administrators are tired of fighting for scraps. The present administration is working to fund private and charter schools, so this abuse will continue until ALL citizens of Oklahoma have had enough.

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