Oh, hell no. Scrolling through LinkedIn recently, I saw this video posted by a top Influencer (one of those on LinkedIn who, well, influences). It tells 60 second story of a teacher who hadn’t been paid in months. His students secretly collected money or a “salary gift” for him. He cried and the students ran up to give him a group hug. The Influencer writes: “A teacher receives a gift from his students after they discover he has not been paid for months and sleeps in the classroom. Be the reason someone smiles today.”
You can certainly watch this video and feel good about what is obviously a kind gesture by students who appear to love their teacher. That’s cool. But let’s not ignore the fact that the teacher is teaching in a system that is not providing the proper kinds of supports and basic infrastructure needed to ensure that all children in their charge–not just the lucky ones who have a teacher who didn’t quit after the first paycheck went missing–are afforded a quality education. We see this all over the world. Education stories that intentionally focus on the singular feel-good or feel-afraid exceptions in order to make a sweeping suggestion about the whole field. Such stories don’t give education anywhere near the respect it deserves.
For me, these kinds of stories can be useful, but only when they are used to serve as an entry point into sustained critical and creative discussions about what the individual case reveals about the integrity of the whole system. You cannot achieve equity through exceptionalism. It doesn’t work that way.
Don’t “be the reason someone smiles today.” Be the reason more students, teachers, parents, and the public hold meaningful conversations about why we educate our children at all and how we can ensure a proper and equitable public education for everyone.