Jon Hazell: Celebrate Tenacity of Teachers Finding Success


Something’s bothering me: the framework in which we discuss public education in Oklahoma.
 
In my last two blogs I addressed our tough climate, and in fact, almost every article regarding public education these days deals with that very subject.
 
I’m bothered that these articles focus on the teachers who are leaving the state, airing their discontent or quitting altogether. In other words, we’ve framed our discussion around crisis and disillusionment. While I do not judge anyone’s decision to leave, the fact remains that such turnover worsens an already difficult situation. 
 
 I’m the first to agree that things are tough, but I believe we should re-frame the way we talk about how our Oklahoma teachers and administrators are responding.
 
We are not quitters; nor are we whiners.
 
In my journey thus far through the process of being named Teacher of the Year, I have had the privilege of meeting some amazing people: the 11 finalists from this year as well as previous finalists and Teachers of the Year. As I have developed what I know will be life-long friendships, I have become amazed at not only what kind of teachers they are, but what kind of people they are.
 
Charmin Holland from Duncan, Brittany Hix from Jenks, Rebecka Binion and Lisa Pitts from Oklahoma City, Mona Hart Schmitz from Woodward, Tiffany Brown Massie from Mustang, Kristen Dover from Cache, Robin Haworth from Tecumseh, Mike Doudican from Glenpool, Adam Mewhorter from Moore, and Kay Morris from Verdigris – these people are the best of the best, doing amazing things in the midst of some of our most difficult circumstances.
 
Thousands of other fantastic teachers in this state are doing the same.
 
The persistence, dedication and creativity of these teachers exemplify the state of public education in Oklahoma every bit as much as disillusionment and crisis. To me, they deserve the spotlight.
 
In other words, if you ask me to characterize public education in our state today, these people are the real story. Why are we not talking about them and holding them up as the shining examples of the true “can do” spirit that is the Oklahoma teacher?
 
 They could earn more money in other states, and in many instances they would garner more public respect. They could certainly find easier circumstances in which to work, and most could find other careers. If they and countless others just threw up their hands and quit, few would blame them.
 
Yet they produce excellent results in the midst of challenge. They care for the children of this state enough to sacrifice personal gain to give those children the best chance to succeed.
 
Let’s frame our stories around these people.
 
I understand that controversy and conflict are interesting. I myself am often tempted to focus on the negative, finding some strange satisfaction in shaking my head and lamenting about how bad things are.
 
But surely we all know that pointing out yet another negative event or trend in Oklahoma public education improves nothing. If anything, it hastens the descent.
 
And surely we all know that, while many teachers may be leaving the state or the profession, our Oklahoma children aren’t leaving; they’re still here, and somebody needs to teach them.
 
Let’s focus on the teachers who are doing just that.
 
Thousands of them never complain, much less consider leaving.
 
Instead of obsessing on resources, let’s highlight the resourcefulness of these thousands of fantastic teachers finding ways to build success no matter the circumstances.
 
From the bottom of my heart, thank you to all of the amazing teachers finding answers to our problems rather than focusing on the problems themselves. Thank you for changing the things you have the power to change instead of leaving it up to someone else to make a difference. I am proud to be counted as one of you.
 
You not only make my days better, but you make the days of hundreds of thousands of Oklahoma schoolchildren better. That is something worth talking about. 
 
Last updated on July 10, 2017