What’s the opposite of Red?: Why I’m not participating in #RedForEd

This morning, I literally Googled “What’s the opposite of red?” I wanted to know because I wanted to be sure to wear the opposite of my favorite color. I’ve been a fan of North Carolina State (red & white colors) my entire life. The school where I teach has red as one of its colors. There’s a LOT of red in my closet. For the record the opposite of red includes some combination of green/blue/cyan. So, today, just to be sure nobody thinks I’m a part of the #RedForEd movement, I’m wearing a green shirt with a navy blue undershirt (no man wears cyan), and I left my red Nike shoes at home for the day.

Don’t get me wrong…I’m for the best education possible for every person alive on the planet!

It probably seems like I’m being obstinate and likely seems like I don’t support my colleagues, fellow educators, who are marching in Raleigh, NC today to fight for a better education system in North Carolina. I agree with a lot, if not most, of what they’re trying to do. So, why am I so intentionally wearing the opposite of red? Why am I taking valuable time to write only the third post on my blog in the past year? It’s because there is a bigger story here.

As I look at the landscape of the world today, I see politics everywhere. People are choosing sides. I see division, animosity, entrenched sides who want nothing of hearing their counterparts. I’m taking this stand, and trying in my own little way to let my voice be heard and to say:

This pattern of division HAS to stop!

There are talking points on both sides of the education argument. The thing is, most of them are right…on BOTH sides. Education needs more financial backing if we’re going to compete on the global stage. There needs to be some sort of accountability for teachers, but testing isn’t working. Data can easily be manipulated, but is relied on almost exclusively as the gold standard of success.

We often don’t feel supported by those in leadership over us. Students are allowed to be completely disrespectful and get away with all sorts of things because any real discipline is considered “corporal punishment.” Decisions are regularly made for us by people who have never been in a classroom, or are so far removed from the classroom they can’t accurately recall what it was like, and have no real idea of just how much it’s changed in the last decade since they taught an actual class.

Teachers don’t get paid as much as we’d like. BUT, we’re compensated well enough to survive, and we only work 10 months a year. By the time my salary and benefits are added, I’m compensated nearly $60K/year for 10 months work. That said, I wouldn’t turn down a raise either. We’re tired. We genuinely care about each student who enters our classroom, but we feel attacked almost daily by those who think we’re out to get their child. So why choose education?

I didn’t choose to be an educator, God chose it for me.

But, He didn’t choose me to be an educator just in the public school system. In fact, public schools aren’t the only way to educate. My own children are educated at home every day while I go to teach in a public school. Charter schools, private schools, online academies are all good options in many cases. There are good options in all of those areas, and bad ones as well. God created me to be an educator everywhere I go. He’s gifted me in ways He hasn’t gifted others, to be able to make complex ideas seem simpler and understandable.

He’s created you in a special way too. There may be people with a story similar to yours, but nobody with one exactly like yours. But your story isn’t about you, and my story isn’t about me. The story we get to tell is about God, how He created us, but we rebelled. How He loves us so much that He still wants a relationship, so He made a way back to Him, Jesus. How He wants to be an active part of our life and shape our story to show the world just how good He is.

But, when we become a part of the white noise that is politics; when we allow ourselves to be manipulated by special interest groups and unofficial unions (looking at you NCAE); when we allow ourselves to be duped into thinking our only recourse is to shout at the other “side” then we’ve lost. We’ve lost our opportunity to let our little part of THE story make a difference. I didn’t start teaching because I thought I’d make a lot of money, or because I wanted to spend my best hours in the day being completely disrespected by two or three students who just don’t get it.

I started teaching because God uniquely equipped me to be in this place at this time to make a difference for Him.

If you’re an educator reading this, that’s why you’re here too. It may not be a part of your faith tradition, but it’s still why you’re an educator, whether you want it to be or not. God wants us to find our identity in His story and then show our students how they can do the same, no matter what hurdles are placed in front of us. There IS a legal way to tell students the story of God! If you don’t find your identity in Him, I’d love to have a conversation with you. All you have to do is CONTACT ME.

I get the joy of developing relationships (some lifelong) with students who need to know someone loves them more than they can even comprehend. I get the privilege to coach basketball, softball, and track athletes to do more than win on the court. I get to cry with a student whose life is falling apart at home. I get to help them rebuild their life after a hurricane. I get to see them go from troublemaker to four star football recruit. I get to see their story develop. I get to help shape that story!

So what about you? Do you want to continue to be part of the noise, or do you want to remind yourself why teaching actually matters. When we go march and protest things like testing requirements, pay scales, funding, etc., we’ve missed the real issue. The real problem is the true Enemy has convinced both sides this argument is worth having. He’s dividing us and deceiving us into thinking politicians, teachers, unions, administrators, even students and parents are the enemy.

The truth is the real issue isn’t funding, testing, or even party affiliation. The real issue is our identity isn’t found in the One that matters most. Our identity isn’t in something that lasts forever; its in a title, a job, or a degree that says we should be paid more than we are. For the non-educators reading this, your identity is supposed to be in His story too. You weren’t intended to choose a side in this.

When we choose sides, everybody loses. Not even the prevailing side actually wins.

So, why did I wear the green shirt today? I wanted to be sure that anyone who asked got to hear a better story. That story says my identity isn’t in my job or my politics, its in the One who rescued me and is transforming my life every day. I chose to take time to write an article in the hopes that today, this story will find someone who needs to hear that your life’s story can be so much more. I love what I do, even when it frustrates me to the point of wanting to quit sometimes. Why? Because His story is worth telling, and this is how I get to tell it. It’s the story we’ve been given for the journey.

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