An old Cherokee told his grandson, “My son, there is a battle between two wolves
inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, inferiority, lies & ego.
The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy & truth.”
The boy thought about it, and asked, “Grandfather, which wolf wins?”
The old man quietly replied, “The one you feed.”
A friend of mine recently shared this parable with me, and with another school year ready to begin, I started thinking about this essential lesson as it relates to my professional practice.
I’m getting ready to begin my 24th year in the classroom; I’m a career teacher and I love my school, the community, and the people I get to work with. I feel fortunate because our district (like so many across the country) has experienced several years of multi-million dollar budget cuts resulting in the loss of some amazing teachers, bloated class sizes, and non-existent curricular and co-curricular operating budgets. Yes…I actually feel fortunate because I get to go to work and do something I love; something that truly matters.
No, I don’t have my head in the sand. I am very concerned about the lack of fiscal responsibility and support for what I feel is the most important aspect of our republic – educating our young people; the future, contributing citizens of our country. I am very concerned about the vilification of teachers and the teaching profession which some have recently championed. And, I’m worried about several of the education policy initiatives being pushed by some politicians. I always find it interesting how those farthest from the classroom want to appear as if they have all the solutions surrounding education policy.
More than ever, we as teachers need to ‘feed the good wolf’ within ourselves, and our professional practice. Not simply because of our collective responsibility to our students and the communities we serve, but because there is plenty of evidence to suggest that despite the challenging conditions surrounding teaching, the public perception of teachers and the work we do is quite positive.
Phi Delta Kappa conducts an annual poll with Gallup to measure the public’s attitudes toward public schools. This year’s poll results (the 43rd annual measurement) is summarized through this statement:
With all the heated discourse about American public education – documentary films, opinion articles in newspapers, and more opinions on blogs – or perhaps despite them, Americans have reached their own conclusions about what’s necessary to ensure a good education for all children: Identify and retain great teachers. Not only do Americans understand the need for great teachers, they also trust and support teachers who are in classrooms now.
The data also suggests that more than ever, the constitutional ideal of local control of decisions related to our public schools is essential to improving the quality of education that we offer our children.
So rather than become frustrated and cynical about the challenges we face as teachers, we should focus on the essential work we do and know that despite some negative, politically-driven sound bytes, the public appreciates good teachers and wants to support their public schools.
Feed the good wolf – select elements of your practice that you want to improve as you begin this school year. Find colleagues you trust who are willing to help you with your practice, and read the most recent research literature. As you teach students about continuous improvement and life-long learning, be sure you are practicing those ideals as well.