Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Dear Legislator

Dear Oklahoma Legislator,

Last week, one of my seniors told me he's thinking about becoming a math teacher. I've taught this kid for two years--in PreCalculus and AP Calculus--and he's always told me he wanted to be a pediatrician. I'll tell you this: a bunch of my kids say they want to be doctors. You know what's different about this one? He would actually do the work necessary to become one. 

But now this boy--this smart, competent, enthusiastic young man--is considering becoming a public educator instead. He has only one concern: Will he be able to support a family on an Oklahoma teacher's salary?

I ask you, how am I to answer that?

Some of your colleagues have answered my question with, "You knew what you were going to make when you entered this profession."

My students are starting to listen. And now a whole generation is terrified of pursuing an education degree out of fear that they will not be able to make it financially. 

I'd like to paint you a picture. Let me tell you what my student's classroom would look like, if he decides to pursue a career in education.

His classroom door would be open to anyone, at all times. He would treat his students as if they were his own children. He would teach with passion and enthusiasm, researching ways to make sure every kid had the best possible learning environment. He would never give up on his students, even if they gave up on themselves. No child would ever feel left out or lonely, because this young man is a champion of the underdog. His students would learn elegant mathematics, and they all would be stretched in their thinking. They would leave his class with more confidence than when they entered. 

His students would feel connected to their school, because this boy has more school spirit than anyone I've ever known. He would sit in the front row at their plays, games, and concerts. He'd be their biggest cheerleader. Those kids would feel so loved. His would be the class that would brighten their day--even when the demands of high school tugged at them. 

You know that excitement and softness that people use when they talk to a new baby? That's the kind of enthusiasm and kindness with which he would treat his own students. Imagine a world where we all learned to treat each other in that way. We could start a revolution. 

His students would learn the importance of serving each other and working together. He would model what it looks like to put others' needs above your own. He would serve and teach with generosity, humility, and compassion. He would be every kid's favorite teacher. 

But he'd also make a great doctor. 

So I ask you, what am I to tell him?

How would you answer him?

You and I both know we need people like him in the classroom. A high school teacher impacts thousands of young lives over his career. Think of the lives he could change for the better. 

I've done my part: I've lit the fire. I've sparked his interest. 

Now it's up to you.  What will you do to keep this young man--and many others like him--in our schools?

I hope you choose to go light the world.


Rebecka Peterson
Union High School


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