By Amy Clancy
I’ve always loved to sing. I have sung in church choirs, at weddings, and even on a mini-tour doing “Gospel in Songs” for various business and nonprofit groups. To me, singing has always been about exposing the soul. If you feel the song, its words are meant for you and the world, and you sing the hell out of it. You want to force it into the hearts of those listening (or if alone on a treadmill, earbuds in, music blaring — you know somehow that your message is reaching outward).
It is human nature to want our voices to be heard — our actions to have impact— but sometimes it can feel like we’re not making a difference at all. Caught up in the bureaucracy of education, it is hard to weed through to what really matters. We are often blown off course due to the decisions of others. In our classrooms, we are isolated in a world all our own that extends into the night and then into the next day, and so on.
The truth is, as a teacher, there are so many voices that we hear — so many rules and regulations, meetings and committees, standards, grading, phone calls, hundreds of emails, about 150+ students needing attention each day, and having to be ON from the moment you arrive until the moment you leave. Grading for hours each night at home to give timely feedback and to keep the grade book updated so parents and administrators are satisfied; observing students and realizing something is not right with the one sitting in the back. You worry all night until you can pull him aside the next morning to find out what the problem is and he tells you his dad is in jail again and your heart breaks and you just can’t breath and…You get the picture.
I long for silence of the soul but instead my heart sings “We Will Rise Against” by Pilot Hill. I rage this song in a voice that hopes to grab people by the shoulders and shake some love into them and sense into everyone else. Yet I feel like one person most of the time, rather than the might of many who live in my heart.
Not that I have the answers, the lyrics say it best:
“We will rise against
Even though we don’t know where we should begin
Even though we can’t see around the bend
Oh, we know that we will rise against”
We. School is made up of so many people who juggle the same things over and over day after day, and yet we rarely see each other. We are a community of isolated beings. This is a reality that educators know to be true. Yet faced with our own reality, that of our students and our endless responsibilities, we march on because we want our students to be successful. We encourage them, motivate them and seek to develop them. We face setback after setback, we self-examine, and we get up each morning and press on.
This job is tough, teachers. But I want to say, hold on, we will rise against!
Sometimes it’s hard to be what we are, but if we persevere, we do shed some of our own light. It is hard to see around each corner, especially when standards are changing, numbers are reigning, parents and admin are complaining, and society is constantly changing, but we will rise against.
The simple fact is that regardless of all the forces pressing against us, we can shed light on our students and the teachers around us or seek the light of our students and teachers when we are feeling dim. Six hours a day we stand together for the whole child, and we search for answers, seek solutions and make changes to reach every kid that we can. We bear this cross out of love and a desperate desire to make things right.
I realize this is naïve of me really, but it is the song of my soul. I believe in the human spirit — that at our worst, the good will shine forth and conquer. I believe each of us is responsible for making that happen. This is the cross that teachers have chosen to bear. Our hearts are with our students, and our minds are always racing to our heart-song, so we continue to move forward each day to build a world that sings the hell out of peace, love, equity and a life where people act with understanding and knowledge.
Each new day that you enter your classroom — sing the hell out of your song to your students. To the teachers. To anyone who will listen and sing on when they won’t. Teachers, Rise. Against. Fight for our kids. Fight for each other.
Amy Clancy is a National Board Re-certified 8th grade teacher at Walton-Verona Middle School, KY. She is a Hope Street KY Teacher Fellow and the president elect/newsletter editor for the KY Council Teachers of English/Language Arts.