Each of you who works at LPS is an educator. Regardless of your particular position or job title, your ultimate mission is to prepare career-bound citizens. Children are the center of our existence. We circle around them at different stations, some of us facing outward to protect them; some of us watching directly over their daily needs. The closer you are to children, the more your presence or absence impacts their day. The farther from the core, the more you protect them and those who serve them in the long-term. You are all educators, essential to our students.
The school day cannot proceed without cooks, bus drivers, teachers, coaches, or aides. Remove any one of you, and the school would not function for a day. But while others may not directly serve children, your contributions are no less important. Just imagine a school without custodians, secretaries, maintenance staff, technicians, or principals. The classroom would hardly last a week without you. On the other hand, many kids would not last a week without our therapists, nurses, and counselors. Working beyond these circles are educators who invisibly ensure children are served. You manage payrolls, purchasing, reports, deliveries and other issues, but without your work, the inner circles could not function long. Farthest away from the center are a handful of administrators and school board members. Your duties are least visible to the classroom, but the work you do impacts every single staff member and student in profound ways.
I have been meeting with leaders lately, and we have simply been asking each other, “Why?” as we search for meaning in our professional and personal lives. Those who make a lot of money struggle with the question as violently as those who work at minimum wage. Sooner or later, we all try to find the why in what we do, but it can be very elusive for some. If we find no meaning in our work – if we cannot identify the why – then our work becomes empty and meaningless. Work by its very nature is hard, so hard at times that we wonder if we will survive, but when we find meaning in our work, even the toughest chores can bring satisfaction and joy.
I have had many jobs – from truck-driver to insurance agent – and I could never find a “why” that satisfied me. I have discovered my why only as an educator, and I know many of you have travelled similar paths. We share the greatest why imaginable, and as I watch other professionals struggle to find their why, I am ever so thankful that our whys are so easy to find. Just look toward the center, and you will find them. Our whys dance and sing and play. They struggle to find their place among their peers. They embrace awful fashion trends. They succeed, they fail, they love, they fight, and they grow – all possible because you educators surround them. Most of all, however, our children ask “Why?” And because of you, they have a chance to find their own whys.
Your whys fill your buses, your cafeterias, your classrooms, and your competitions. Serving children does not answer every problem in life, but if nothing, it should make the why of Lawton Public Schools clear. You are all educators. Each of you is contributing to the futures of our fifteen-thousand career-bound citizens, and your whys will be answered for generations to come, perhaps even for all eternity.