Thursday, March 12, 2015

Kindred Spirits

I'm a law-abiding citizen and have always highly respected those who work in law enforcement in my community. Even so, for the past seven months, my appreciation for the men and women who serve in police departments across the country has grown, and with it has come a new sense of brotherhood, for want of better word.

Oh, I would never presume to say that my duties as an educator put me in anything even remotely close to the risk that police officers face every day. Rather, the intense media scrutiny and endless discussions on social media since last August have caused me to realize that there are a few parallels between police officers and teachers.

First, some people who have absolutely zero experience in education know exactly what, in any given situation, a teacher should and should not do. The same is true of police officers.

I have seen this throughout my teaching career and wish I had a dime for each time I have been told, overheard, or read on Facebook or a in a chat room that "Mr. So-and-So should not have punished Little Suzy because there were extenuating circumstances that caused her to cheat/lie/forget to do an assignment/break a rule." Similarly, in the past seven months I have read and heard comments condemning a police officer for executing his duties as he or she has been trained and in a lawful manner. My favorite may well be the comment by an acquaintance that "no matter what, a policeman should never fire his gun at someone more than once."

Second, those who are critical of teachers are most vocal. The same is true of police officers.

Yes, some parents and some students do express their appreciation for the teachers in their lives, but any educator whose been on the job more than a semester will surely attest to the fact that people are far quicker to complain than to praise. If you've watched tv, read a newspaper, or frequented social media recently, you know that criticism and condemnation of police officers overwhelmingly outweigh accolades being paid.

Last, despite the fact that they could do the job better and will boldly say so to anyone who will listen, those who are most critical would never dream of putting their money where their mouth is and becoming either an educator or a police officer.

Several years ago, a business woman-acquaintance was complaining to me about her son's teacher. The business woman went on and on about what the teacher was "doing wrong" and what she should be doing instead. When I gently explained that her proposed solution was unethical and why, she responded, "Well, if I were a teacher, I'd do it anyway." I then gently suggested that with her passion for education, she might want to consider going back to college and getting the necessary classes to become a teacher. Her response was quick,concise, and derisive: "I wouldn't have that job for a million dollars!"

Similarly, a very vocal and virulent critic of police officers said in my hearing a few weeks ago, "I wouldn't be a cop for all the money in the world."

I'm not a Pollyanna, and I realize that there are some bad teachers -- and some bad police officers -- on the job. They should be criticized, but not on social media or in the bleachers at a basketball game. There are avenues to address legitimate issues when they exist.

But there are many, many fine police officers serving in communities across this country, and recent events have shown me that our paths are, in some ways, quite similar. As a result, I've been making more of an effort to express my support and appreciation to those who protect and serve, and I hope you'll join me in doing so.

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