Over 40 new certified staff and dozens of support staff joined the district this year. Several of them come to Duncan Public Schools with experience, but several of them are stepping into the school setting for the first time. No matter how confident and prepared a person is, coming to a new school and job is stressful. In addition to facing new students and colleagues, a new educator wrestles with the questions of community support, job security, and overall success. And that stress increases exponentially for emergency or alternatively certified teachers!
New educators do not fear the students or the other teachers or even the principal. Their greatest fear is disappointing the people they pledged to serve and serve alongside. They wonder how the community will receive them, because people who enter education desire to join a community. They desire to be part of something bigger that holds meaning. Educators are by nature family-centric, faith-driven, and service-oriented. Peel off all the labels and political baggage that has been attached to educators on a national level, and I guarantee that you will be looking into mirrors, not stereotypes.
Educators are not driven by finances nor fame nor glory. Think about it: what on earth would motivate someone to tackle classroom issues in 2019? The small percentage with misplaced motives quickly exit the profession. Occasionally, a few bad apples become poster children for educational critics, but there are over eighty-thousand school employees in Oklahoma alone. Whenever a public educator makes a mistake, it makes headlines, and we do not have eighty-thousand bad apples in Oklahoma. Some people think that hearing about misbehaving educators means the system is broken. On the contrary, it means the system to protect children is working as designed because they cannot hide. No one can teach very long without a sincere desire to see children excel, so we need to embrace the educators we have, especially the new ones.
Oklahoma is in the most severe teacher shortage in history. Our colleges of education have all but dried up, producing only a fraction of the teachers needed to replace retiring educators, and our nation’s cultural climate has deterred many from entering the profession. Being embraced by their community may be one of the greatest perks a new educator can receive. In 2019, we can be confident that the only people left in public school classrooms are the truly dedicated. We are blessed to have each one of them, and they are rapidly becoming any communities’ top asset.
We know that our children are our most precious resource, but how precious are the men and women who dedicate their lives to serving them on a daily basis? I have officially been in Duncan Public Schools for two months, and from what I have seen, Duncan recognizes and values the men and women who serve your children. Watching how this community embraces its educators has been one of the greatest joys of my career.
Nevertheless, I am going to ask you to step it up a notch for the newbies. I do not want to lose one of them. Regardless of the path they chose to enter education at DPS, I want to see each one of them return. They have chosen the noblest of professions, and they have chosen this community. If we are honest, we cannot imagine our community without them. So my simple request: Pray for them. Encourage them. Embrace them. Affirm them. Support them. If the community does nothing else this year for the schools, love our newbies. They are guardians of our future, and we need to break the trend that sees so many of them leave the profession after their first few years. So please join me, Duncan. Hail and celebrate our new educators, for in doing so, you affirm and validate everyone who serves alongside them. And in doing so, we embrace the children of this community and the Duncan they will create in the years to come.