Don’t worry, this is not a post about problems. We have enough discourse right now about problems. This is a post about solutions. As I was re-watching the movie Apollo 13 this week, I was reminded of one of the most important rules in life.
We are never in this alone.
It would be so easy to see the heroes of the Apollo 13 mission as Commander Jim Lovell, Command Module Pilot Jack Swigert, and Lunar Module Pilot Fred Haise. And of course they are heroes. They accomplished what few people before or after have ever done. They braved a new world at great personal risk. And when things went wrong, as they so often do in life, they stayed level-headed, they relied on their training, and they used their knowledge, skills, and experience to make it home safely. But they did not do it alone.
Gene Kranz was the Lead Flight Director. His job was to coordinate the efforts from the ground. Countless men and women worked around the clock to find the right answers, the best solutions, to problems no one had ever encountered before. Their efforts were no less heroic than those of the men in the capsule.
While there was no doubt some poetic license taken in the retelling of the story, Ken Mattingly, who was replaced on the mission for medical reasons just days before the launch, also worked the problem from the ground. His efforts were no less heroic than those of the men in the capsule.
And there was Marilyn Lovell, Jim’s wife, and the family, friends, and co-workers of the crew. So many people who were either working to find solutions or working to support those most directly involved in the crisis.
We are never in this alone. This is true in space travel, in education, in life.
Our teachers work day after day to find the best solutions for the children in our schools. They are heroic. They design engaging lessons. They work hard to be sure there is a solid objective for the lesson and appropriate instructional strategies. They use data and research-based ideas. But more, they get to know their students on a personal level. They connect with children and parents to build a safe space for learning. And when things go wrong, when a lesson doesn’t work or technology is glitchy (yes, thats the technical term) or when a student is hungry, they find solutions. They stay level-headed, they rely on their training, and they use their knowledge, skills, and experience to solve the problem. And they do not do it alone.
There are paraprofessionals alongside them in class. There are secretaries and food service workers and custodians supporting the building. There are administrators working systematically to design the best schools and to connect with students and parents daily.
And then there’s us. Those of us who no longer work in a building with students. I have to admit, it is a weird feeling. We all got into this to help students. We all got into this to make a difference for a child. As I watched Apollo 13, I found myself affirmed in the idea that the work of those of us on the ground crew, those of us not in the classroom every day, is still serving children. Our work is still focused on meeting the needs of the students, the parents, the teachers, the schools.
And we are not alone in this either. Our school boards, our legislators, our judicial system are all hard at work to meet the needs of the people. Everyone got into this to make a difference.
I guess I am just saying that you matter! Whether you are the one in the capsule, the one on the stage, the one in the spotlight, or the one whose name is unknown doing quiet, important work behind the scenes. None of us are in this alone. And we all matter!