A plane passenger asked a teacher a kind of rude question about her job. She responded eloquently!

'So what do you do, darlin'?'

It's annoying when people mistakenly think your job is really simple.

Most people's lines of work are more intricate and multilayered than those who don't do that work would guess. So most of us can think of a time someone reductively assumed that our jobs are very simple (whether it's writer, janitor, stay-at-home parent, or any job really).

That's what happened when teacher Lily Eskelsen García, who now works with the National Education Association, boarded a plane and found herself next to a passenger who, like many, was confused about what's going on with public schools in America and wanted her to boil down the problems too simplistically. What he said would have thrown me for a loop, too.


"Darlin... I'm a businessman, I want you to bottom-line it for me. I want you to tell me right now. What is the one single thing that would solve all of our problems in public schools?"

The fact is, the "bottom line" when it comes to public schools right now seems a maelstrom of many things:

  • Political power plays
  • Reduced funding, which makes them less able to meet student needs
  • Juxtaposition against voucher and charter schools that siphon away some of that very funding and can cherry-pick the top students (which artificially inflates the perception of their comparative success)
  • Increased focus on testing rather than teaching and supporting
  • More students than ever needing stability at school that they may not be getting at home

Phew! There is a LOT to unpack in what's going on with public schools.

So it's hella fulfilling to hear how García swiftly handled her fellow passenger's rudely phrased question:

García turned his words right back at him, making it clear that fixing education will take a lot more than a single buzzword. Even better, she named around 25 different services teachers and schools provide in addition to academics, like breakfasts and teaching children to brush their teeth properly. She also made a really great point about how confused people aren't the enemy, but folks we need to educate more fully about the reality of public schools.

Whether you're a teacher, a student who supports teachers, or someone who feels invested in the success of public schools and kids, you know that schools are a complicated undertaking. They're not going to be fixed with a quick gimmick or one bright idea. We expect public schools to do a whole heckuva lot, and the least we can do is understand and provide support for all of that hard work.

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Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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