OKTOY Blog: Overcoming against all odds

I recently finished reading Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, and I am currently reading Good to Great by Jim Collins. The first told the true story of Louis Zamperini’s journey from boyhood to Olympian to a prisoner in World War II Japanese P.O.W. camps and his ultimate release. The second depicts how certain Fortune 500 companies made the leap from mediocre or even poor performers to sustained, great companies.

Jason Proctor on top of Mt. Elbert in Leadville, Colo.Jason Proctor on top of Mt. Elbert in Leadville, Colo.

These two books have more in common than you might think. For example, Collins wrote about meeting Admiral James Stockdale, who was the highest-ranking U.S. military officer in the “Hanoi Hilton” P.O.W. camp during the Vietnam War.

More than shared P.O.W. stories, however, both books share a lesson: overcoming against all odds.

Our lives are full of disappointments, setbacks and unexpected turns. In the business world they come in the form of takeover battles, deregulations and product recalls. In our personal lives they come in the form of accidents, loss of loved ones or disease. What separates people, or organizations, is not the presence of, or lack of, adversity —but the manner in which we respond.

Admiral Stockdale stated, “This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

In the world of education, many would agree that we are experiencing difficulties of unparalleled proportions. Students are questioning why they are being tested so much with tests that are irrelevant to their college admissions while others are being sent home in tears due to overwhelming stress.

Teachers are either leaving the profession or losing heart and struggling to find the motivation to be teachers of impact. With high-stakes testing, funding problems, low teacher pay and the lack of interest to join the profession, are there any reasons to believe that we can prevail?

I believe so.

I have faith that we can and will come out of this current situation better than before. How? I’m not exactly certain, though I believe Admiral Stockdale is correct. We must first honestly confront the facts of our current reality. That means we all have a part and each of us has a duty to make sure our voice is heard.

There is no telling how long the difficulty will remain, but I do know one thing. Those with great faith will continue to show up day after day regardless of the circumstances and will fight the good fight for those young souls they willingly serve. I’m proud to be associated with such amazing overcomers. As an educator, passing along life lessons such as this may be the most lasting work we will ever do.

By: Jason Proctor
2015 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year



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Last updated on December 12, 2014