“Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome,” is a motto among many of my fellow Marine Corps vets. We learned in the Marines Corps that the ability to put these traits into action helps us in life no matter what our job or our role would shape our culture.
The Marines understand no matter if we have to fight with crude, outdated weapons or gear, we could win any battle, because of the creativity and the ingenuity of our people and our burning commitment to success at all costs. Losing is not in our vocabulary.
To improvise, you need mental and physical strength, and use whatever is available. To adapt, you have to be willing to change, if necessary, and using what is available in a new or different manner. To overcome, you have to push the boundaries of your physical and mental capacity, you have to make the necessary changes, but the key is an unwavering pursuit of the victory ahead. Whatever prevents you from achieving your goals, you have to figure out how to get around the obstacle.
As a Tennessee classroom teacher in Meigs County and Bradley County, I also applied those lessons. The rural systems in which I taught were underfunded, high-poverty, and at-risk communities. While things have improved tremendously in our state, challenges remain.
I learned that my talent as a teacher depended less on my knowledge of subject matter and more on my creative ability to work with outdated textbooks, lack of supplies, and outdated facilities. I also recognized that I had the one intangible in my possession that I had to utilize kids who truly wanted to learn.
People talk about hunger as an issue, and it is indeed hard to teach a child who has not eaten or had inadequate food sources or nutrition. I saw my students with a thirst for knowledge, and hunger in their eyes to learn.
A former student recently posted a picture of my first-year teaching on social media, and it reminded me of the importance of an educator in the lives of student success I believe the welfare of students must be placed above all other considerations with our top priority being the education of children. It has to be every educator’s primary mission to create a quality educational experience in a safe environment for our students.
Teaching is not an eight-hour-a-day, five-day-a-week job. There are many duties that educators tackle that do not require pedagogical skills or experience in the classroom but are necessary for the profession. Every educator has to possess the motivation to see their students succeed. Along with a shared vision that all children are equipped with the knowledge and skills to successfully embark upon their chosen path in life. Educators must embrace the highest ethical standards, and keep those who dishonor the profession out of our classrooms.
Teachers simply cannot give up on themselves, nor can we ever give up on our students. We have to improvise, adapt, and overcome both our personal and systemic challenges. The world is filled with stories of success that started with just one person believing in another. You may not see immediate success, but by perseverance, you will ultimately see personal success, and the children in our public-school classrooms will be the ultimate winners. We will not lose.
Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee