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

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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Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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One little girl took pictures of her school lunches. The Internet responded — and so did the school.

If you listened to traditional news media (and sometimes social media), you'd begin to think the Internet and technology are bad for kids. Or kids are bad for technology. Here's a fascinating alternative idea.

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Norton

This article originally appeared on 03.31.15

Kids can innovate, create, and imagine in ways that are fresh and inspiring — when we "allow" them to do so, anyway. Despite the tendency for parents to freak out because their kids are spending more and more time with technology in schools, and the tendency for schools themselves to set extremely restrictive limits on the usage of such technology, there's a solid argument for letting them be free to imagine and then make it happen.

It's not a stretch to say the kids in this video are on the cutting edge. Some of the results he talks about in the video at the bottom are quite impressive.

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