Many years ago when I was a girl, I clearly remember that municipal employees were going to knock down the few trees in a green area near my house to install a fenced area for the garbage trucks. My mother opposed it and organized a picnic with the neighbors and their children in exactly that area before the demolition machinery arrived. For the long hours, the municipal officials tried to convince her to leave; her response was always the same: “We must take care of the few green areas we have so that our children have a place of relaxation in contact with nature.” When the press and the media came, the facts were disseminated, and the deforestation project ended and we conserved that green area.
Even after so many years passed, I am thrilled that so many memories come to my mind in which she led and participated in social causes to avoid injustices, promote respect for women, the elderly, and the sick and particularly to promote the improvement of our schools. Frequently she was part of the directives of the school societies of parents and had a reputation that she was not intimidated by any problem or by any authority.
On one occasion, I asked her if she was not afraid when she organized these protests. She told me: “of course, I was afraid, but I also was afraid that if I did nothing, those scoundrels would get away with it”. Few people dare to protest against injustice, but if we do nothing to avoid them, we become accomplices of them.
Several years ago, being a teacher in another school in this same School District, I was very concerned about the growing presence of drug sales and consumption in the school, and I dared in a meeting with the directors to mention the severity of the problem and the feeling that our inaction as adults made us accomplices of the increasing drug problem, and that we should face it because the parents entrust us to their children and think that a school is a safe place.
Other teacher friends told me: “do not mention any of this because you’re going to face the authorities. As long as the problem of drugs is not mentioned, it is not a problem. They want less to come to light.”
Coincidentally, a week later, a special education girl filed a complaint against me, because I dared to tell her to stop playing and to start working (on the solution of the mathematics exercises that had been assigned to her). Oh what a great offense, I was immediately suspended for several days for an investigation, because I was pushing a girl to do the academic work she had to do and to call her attention and ask her to go to work, which was my obligation to do.
When the official investigation was made, of course, everything was clarified, and I was totally and completely exonerated from the unjustified charges against me. Even the investigator told me, “What a pity that teachers who really care about their students are unfairly pressured in this way.” On that occasion, he told me that we should never openly criticize the authorities because there are usually reprisals and he recommended that I always carry a recorder with me because it was the most direct way to deny a slander. He told me you have no idea how many injustices we see here.
When I returned to school, the authorities only mentioned that they had investigated me because of complaints from the students, without clarifying that it had been totally unjustified (by only one lazy student who doesn’t want to work) and that I had been total and completely exempted of any charges.
The next year I requested a school change, despite how much I loved my students, but hurt by the hypocritical attitude of school authorities. Even today, more than 10 years later I have heard comments from the authorities that I have a history of being in conflict with students. They do not mention that in the time I worked there, my students were always the ones who obtained the highest grades, nor that the real problem was to try to defend the students from a very serious danger that the school authorities did not want to face. I still have the great satisfaction of hundreds of alumni, who continued studying and who frequently come to me after so many years, remembering those years of achievement and academic growth pleasantly.
I clearly remember the words of my mother: Never act for personal convenience; Always do what your conscience tells you, which is the moral guide that God has given us to know what is right to do.
It is the same moral advice that I give to my students:
Always do the right thing, and do not worry. Doing your best is better than doing nothing.
And remember: “Education is the foundation upon which you build your future” Christine Gregoire
And never ever do drugs!