Who are the patriots today?

By Tristan Cotterill

Are you a TESOL teacher, state school teacher, or a private school teacher. A teachers of the arts, or a STEM subject.

We are the patriots of today

The meaning of Patriotism has always been one in constant flux, an unceasingly endless moving target. How someone defines it, is a product of who they are. If you went back in time you could trace evolution’s of its meanings. Like the idea of the flag it is fundamentally linked to, it to can be reinterpreted with the changing of the times.

At its core root the word simply meant ‘fellow countryman’. That all changed during the English civil war, it came to mean an adherence to certain principles — the rights of the citizen and opposition to tyranny.

It is in that second part where I feel teachers being patriots lies. Patriotism; does not have to include the love of country, as in all the beautiful trees and fields, nor to blindly trust in anything our leaders tell us, it is not simply showing up to vote, and it is certainly not just waving a flag around. I subscribe to a patriotism rooted in the idea of supporting and being responsible for your community.

How you define community will further define how you understand that, do we live in a truly global, national, or local community. Our world is ever increasing ever connecting, the idea of the nation state is dissolving, with borders more permeable than ever before. With it, the idea of a patriot being a native is diminishing leaving us only to be proud wherever we are. As the old saying goes ‘home is wherever I hang my hat’ and that is where a patriot is effective. How individual teachers relate to their community is subjective but, it does not take away from the fact that they are an asset to them.

Janny Scott said

“In good times, the patriotic reflex weakens. In times of crisis, patriotism thrives.”

Perhaps then that as the educational systems around the world are constantly being put under more and more strain, more and more stories are coming to light of teachers going above and beyond their expectations. Richard Appiah Akoto in Ghana teaches computer science without a computer.

This is Patriotic, going to great lengths to provide ICT education for his students.

His students can go back into their community and use new found skills to better their lives and everyone’s around them.

On a sadder example, a lot of news outlets have recently turned to covering the seemingly endless string of school shootings in the United States. With a rather alarming frequency you can find stories of teacher’s held as ‘heroes’ who have given their lives to protect their students. Far too many people consider patriotism in the narrowest of definitions seeing only those who serve and die for their country to be patriotic but, now teacher’s are doing exactly that.

The Geography teacher, Scott Beigel was one such person during the Parkland shooting. He gave his life so his students may live. According to reports he unlocked the door to his classroom to try and let in students who were fleeing from the gunman, and was shot before he was able to close and re-lock the door.

These are of course extreme examples of what it means to be patriotic within the teaching profession. A case could certainly be made that they are among the best of us. It is far more common however for a teacher to buy school supplies with their own cash.

“A TES survey of more than 1,800 teachers, conducted jointly with the NEU teaching union, revealsthat 94 per cent are having to pay for school essentials such as books, stationery and storage equipment. And two-thirds of the teachers polled said that they had been forced to pay for items or contribute cash because their schools were so short of funds.”

Ignoring the ethical and moral dilemma this implies, what they are having to do to do their job is going above and beyond what should be expected from them, they are doing something patriotic for all the students they teach.

“Almost three-quarters – 73 per cent – of those surveyed said that they regularly purchased stationery items, such as pens, pencils and board markers.”

Fifty-eight per cent had paid for books. And 43 per cent had paid for art materials.”

Why they are forced to go to such lengths is a topic for another time but, when they could easily just refuse to, tells us that there is a sense of pride in being a teacher and bringing something important to the community even if it sometimes feels as if it is undervalued.

For so long now Teachers have been pushed to the back, used as an excuse for far larger social problems, made scapegoats to explain macro-economic trends. People have forgotten that unless you enlist, there is no greater opportunity for service to your country than undertaking the teaching profession. Often for far too long, we have not received the honour or the consideration for which we are due.

This is a reminder to all that read it, if you are a teacher, you have a great responsibility not only to your students but also the community that it serves.

If you are not a teacher may this serve you as a reminder that teachers everyday do remarkable things, and the profession could certainly do with a bit more encouragement right now. You rightly so, support our troops and our veterans, let us all start to support the other great patriots in the public sector, its teachers.

 

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