“Everyday, everyday you’re not dead in the ground, when you wake up in the morning, you gone have to make some decisions. Gotta ask yourself this question ‘Am I gonna believe all them bad things them fools say about me TODAY?’”
On Tuesday, August 8, 2018, educators assembled from schools in the Defiance, Henry, Fulton, and Williams counties of Ohio for their annual Northwest Ohio ESC (NWOESC) fall retreat. I was hired to give an inspiring and encouraging keynote address to motivate the educators as they head into their 2018-2019 school year. This year’s retreat theme was “Be the Difference.” I opened up my keynote with a video clip of the above quote from the movie, The Help.
After playing the video, I shared how often times the African American maids in the 60’s, as portrayed in the real-life events in Mississippi, are similar to the educators in public school settings of today. Both maids and educators are hired to help others.
The maids were hired to do a specific job - to cook, clean, and to take care of the kids. Sadly, these maids were mistreated, humiliated, and repeatedly disrespected. They did not have any civil rights in the south and had no choice but to do their job or face public shaming, physical harm, or worse yet, death.
These maids could have chosen to believe that they were less than, had no hope, and felt disgruntled. They could have secretly taken their pain out on the children they took care of by choosing to be aloof, passive aggressive, cynical, and angry. Instead, they did the exact opposite.
They poured love, compassion, hope, joy, laughter, and kindness into the children they took care of. They chose to believe that their life had deep meaning. They understood “their why,” and found ways to remain grounded with a deep sense of self, spirituality, and community. They changed the lives of the children they watched. Skeeter recognized this after graduating from college and returning to her hometown community, and went about changing things, due in large part to the encouragement she received from her maid, Constantine.
Educators can often feel the same as the maids - mistreated, humiliated and repeatedly disrespected, by their peers, school administration, the school board, parents, and the children they serve. Sadly, in most instances, educators are not paid well. The systems, processes and restraints within most public school systems can make it feel like educators do not have time, or opportunities, to make a difference in a young person’s life.
Yet, as the maids demonstrated, and as Constantine challenged Skeeter, educators can and do make an amazing difference. Educators must choose, every single day they are not dead in the ground, to believe that they can make a difference, and that their life matters.
Educators must live with a deep sense of self, purpose, and meaning.
Everyday, educators must reconcile themselves with their values, their faith, and maintain a clear set of beliefs that help them endure the struggles that come along with being an educator in today’s schools.
Undoubtedly, our schools are hurting. Undoubtedly, our children are hurting.
We need a revival. We need a renaissance. We need a fresh new sense of hope.
I firmly believe that the hopeful answers lie deep within each educator.
I believe that you have the wisdom to solve the great needs of our youth, and you have amazing ideas on how to improve our school systems, as you continue to listen and lean into what each person's beautiful heart needs.
As you enter into this 2018-2019 school year, I want to encourage you to remind yourself of why you went into this professional. Not just today, but everyday … everyday you’re not dead in the ground, I encourage you to choose self-care love, compassion, joy, kindness, care, and justice.
Choose justice. If you see something that is not working, please, speak up. Offer a solution. Allow the love and self-care that you give to yourself to ooze out to help others. Let this same love guide your desire for justice.
Do you feel alone most days or struggle with ways to stay motivated? If so, follow me on social media under #dpinspires.
If you would like me to encourage and inspire your school, or if you'd like to go deeper to make change, let’s work together.
Like Skeeter, I want to come along side you to bring out your worthy and important voice, through my RISE program.
Here’s to a powerful life changing year.
You can do this.
I believe in you.
What will you choose to believe?