Valid email addresses are required to post comments. If your comment is not posted, I will send you an email with an explanation.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Dollars Or Differences

I encountered a bit of serendipity when I discovered a quote of interest as I was searching for another quote from the same person, former television anchorman Tom Brokaw. His words grabbed hold of me and reaffirmed my decision to enter the career of public school leadership. Brokaw said, "It's easy to make a buck. It's a lot tougher to make a difference."

I am one of seven offspring born to a family headed by two adults who chose to end their formal education after tenth grade. The absence of high school diplomas severely limited the opportunity for my parents to provide the means to support such a large brood. Growing up impoverished could understandably have served as the impetus to lunge forward at any and every chance to make as much money as possible to render poverty a distant memory.

My oldest sister and I both followed our goals and chased our dreams by making the commitment of effort and energy necessary to meet admissions guidelines for college. She earned the distinction of a National Merit Scholarship and the expansive possibilities that await someone of that academic status. I experienced good fortune in school and, together with my ability on the soccer field, was invited to attend a long list of colleges. Each of us was in a position to select from a vast menu of prospective futures. Her talents in science, particularly for a female at that point in time, presented a financially rewarding career in a wide open field - science research, chemical engineering, medicine, university level teaching,... My interest in the social sciences prompted admission counselors and advisers to recommend law, government, foreign service, political science public policy, and other areas as a potential landing zone for a profession.

While both of us were confronted by rather lucrative possibilities, neither of us wavered from our decisions to invest ourselves in the education arena. After all, we arrived at that point in college where we had enticing and financially rewarding careers at our calling because we were recipients and beneficiaries of caring teachers who extended us empathy, understanding and encouragement - beyond their capacity to impart valuable knowledge and skills. Collectively, those staff members fed our dreams and supported out hopes. They were among the few who looked beyond the reality of problems slowly suffocating our family, and the confining stereotypes cast upon us by other staff members, and instead perceived the possibilities and opportunities that could unfold through our potential.

So, the decision to enter teaching was not a difficult choice or a regretful option. We wanted to serve as bridges for others who grew up like us - kids who were frustrated, inhibited by low expectations, and otherwise resigned to suffer within the firm grasp of hopelessness and helplessness. In short, we were far more compelled to make a difference than make a dollar.

We have both been rewarded over and over in untold sums of satisfaction and priceless amounts of personal pride. Neither of us would ever imagine going back in time and altering our path.

In the grips of the present economic crisis that plagues our region, state, and country it would be plausible for current graduates to follow the money to jobs presenting high salaries and substantial benefits. But, in my opinion, if we are to relieve ourselves as a nation of the burden of problems that now appear so overwhelming, the solutions will more likely be created by people who are determined to make a difference than by those who are primarily motivated by making money. I recognize I may be simplistic and I'm not inviting a lengthy debate on the long list of other factors that brought us to the brink of disaster, but think about it - wasn't the "me first" personal greed that inflated Wall Street coffers (and individual wallets) and the "hollow house built of cards" real estate boom and the insatiable "right now" consumer appetite for instant credit beyond our means - the fuel that greatly contributed to the present crisis?

Dollars or Difference?

No comments:

Post a Comment