Last night, on my way to a meeting, I was driving on the highway when I realized I was now behind a driver who was clearly intoxicated. This driver almost swiped 10-12 different vehicles on the highway, and went off the road but recovered many times. After seeing this apparent danger manifest itself repeatedly, I called the State Police so they could intercept as I was trailing this driver with my amber lights on (Civil Air Patrol vehicle). Not only was the driver all over the road, but he was driving at high speeds, and slowed down to an unreasonable crawl. He finally exited the highway, and continued such erratic driving maneuvers. He slammed his vehicle into a guardrail, and despite my best efforts, and knowing what was about to happen, he weaved all the way to the left hand side and right hand side of the road before slamming his vehicle into oncoming traffic. Fully prepared for what I knew to be inevitable, I positioned my vehicle strategically for scene safety and integrity. I then did a medical triage of all the vehicles involved, and thankfully everyone that was hit was OK, except for the drunk driver. In talking with him to keep him coherent, he would say things like, "why is this happening to me", "what happened", etc, etc. Clearly, I knew what happened, but affirming him and helping him relax was the best I could do, while it took police and EMS over 20 minutes to arrive on scene.
Now, how does this relate to education even remotely? Having to process all of this (especially the trauma I observed), recount what I did or could have done, I have had time to turn this experience into an education reflection.
How many of us have students that are on a path for eventual destruction? How many of us have students that are weaving in, out, and around those that wish to support them to avert a potential disaster? How many of us have students that run fast away from the truth and what they really need, and at other times, slow down immeasurably because they want the help? Then, when they are so close to receiving that assistance, they speed off again, and figure that their way is best, eventually making even worse decisions that can result in lasting damage, not just to themselves, but to those around them? As much as we as educators try to intervene, we aren't God. We are simply trying to make a difference in this world, and sometimes, all the good we try may seem like it doesn’t matter. We can see the destruction before it's going to happen, but nothing we say or do will change the circumstances, we just have to watch and ultimately respond. Then, when disaster happens, sometimes we are the ONLY ones there "on scene", and we must do what we can to put our students at ease, and help them realize we are with them, especially when "help" is still a ways off.
As I consider these parallels, I remain hopeful and confident that the field of education is the most important job in the world, save being a parent. We can and must make a difference, and as Mahatma Ghandi sated, "We must be the change we want to see in the world".
May we always understand the importance of this profession we have chosen, and seek to do all we can for those entrusted to us, even if only reactionary.