My family has been having some summer fun catching up on the Mission: Impossible movies and going to see the new one. After seeing the latest, Mission: Impossible, Rogue Nation, we were discussing the film, which we enjoyed, but also making fun of the series as a whole.
In nearly every movie, there is a mole in IMF, or a betrayal in IMF, or IMF has been shut down, or disavowed. Ethan Hunt, Tom Cruise’s character, is nearly always on the run from his own organization. He is blamed for its failures. His successes are never really appreciated, or at least only appreciated during the last five minutes of a given movie before it all goes downhill again in the next one. In nearly every movie, he not only has to do his job; he also has to work against his own organization’s dysfunction to get it done. Why does he even keep working for the IMF? It’s ludicrous!
But the way Cruise plays Ethan, apparently he just keeps on going, through near drownings, car chases, motorcycle chases, climbing around on the outside of skyscrapers, and even dying and being resuscitated not once but twice. He keeps on going through the attempted IMF shutdowns, through being a scapegoat, through being set up, through having to be on the run as a desperate fugitive. He keeps going because he… believes in the mission.
And then I realized that maybe the series wasn’t so ludicrous after all.
As a public school teacher, I work for an organization that often betrays its own ideals. It often betrays mine, that’s for sure. I work for an organization that numerous other organizations are working hard to shut down. I have to go undercover sometimes, or go rogue. If I were in this profession for the pay, the ease of the job, or any overall measure of job satisfaction, I would quit. But I keep going.
I believe in the mission.
As public school teachers, we may not be sneaking into secure facilities and engaging high speed chases and shootouts, but our mission is just as urgent as the IMF’s, and the things we’re up against are often nearly as sinister.
Public school teachers: your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to invest in students using every bit of compassion, teaching skill, creativity, passion, and insight you have. You will be given students from all walks of life, at all skill levels, and with all kinds of social, emotional, family, economic, cognitive, motivational, and attitudinal difficulties.You will try to reach them all to the best of your ability. Your mission is not just to convey information or skills, but to make your subject come alive. Success will look different for every student, but you will know it when you see it.
As if all these challenges were not enough, you will be faced with budget shortfalls that will force you to spend your own money on classroom supplies. You will have to resist mandates, programs, and ideas that you know will hurt your students. You will have to speak up on their behalf and battle the forces of standardization. You will be scapegoated, stereotyped, and called names. You will be forced to go rogue to do what’s right for your students. You will be forced to have a higher, clearer vision of education than many administrators possess, a better vision than any politician has.
Your mission is not to invest in high test scores, but to invest in students as people, to help them have hope and a future.
All of that being said, is it any wonder that so many of our “agents” are choosing to leave the field? Betrayal and espionage make for suspenseful, entertaining spy movies. They don’t make good education policy.
The public school system will self-destruct unless we do something to stop it.