On Monday, I thought I had lost my mind. I was tired from teaching all day and wondered what had possessed me to agree to be a speaker to a group of active and retired educators in Charlotte.
As I dodged the harrowing late afternoon traffic, I thought about a conversation I overheard earlier that day between two gifted students who have taken teaching off the table as a possible career – not because they don’t feel called to it but because their friends and family have told them they are too smart to be teachers. I turned on the radio and listened to discouraging news about the damage to education in the proposed Republican tax bill – deductions for state and local income taxes eliminated, property tax deductions capped, tuition waivers taxed as income for graduate students. I worried about my son working on a PhD and how that will affect him.
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So I was disheartened and weary by the time I stepped into a large room where a group of women were waiting to hear what I had to say about education.
They were members of the Beta Tau chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma (DKG), an international organization for female educators. Begun in 1929 at the University of Texas, Austin, the organization actively supports pro-education legislation as well as offers financial support and mentorship to female teachers.
Independence High chorus and French teacher Kiki Neale is the president of the Charlotte chapter. She and Misty Hathcock, a clinical associate professor at UNCC and Regional Director of the NC New Teacher Support Program, meet regularly with the group to share a meal and work on promoting and supporting education through fundraising, scholarships, and grants for beginning teachers.
They also embody the goal of being lifelong learners, educating themselves about “current economic, social, political, and educational issues so that they may participate effectively in a world society,” one of DKG’s stated purposes.
They asked me about my students and my classroom and nodded in recognition and sympathy as I described my rural South Carolina school. Many have given a lifetime of service to children in Charlotte. They are administrators and media specialists, teachers in public and parochial schools, representing decades of experience and wisdom.
But we are similar in our commitment to each student’s development and well-being. We believe that education is something broader, too – a cornerstone of our democracy.
Before I left, the women took up an impromptu collection for my students, money for books and paper and notebooks. My seniors and I are going to see a play tonight and one teacher insisted on paying the way for a student who needed the price of a ticket.
As the women of DKG laughed at my stories and offered their own, I remembered something I had forgotten – that a shared commitment for the common good is an antidote to the toxic environment characterizing our political and social life these days. Teachers never stop being teachers. They never stop caring about young people. The faces around me were proof of that. For the first time in a long time I felt hopeful.
McSpadden teaches high school English in York, S.C. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Women educators, retired or still working, can join the local chapter of DKG by contacting Kiki Neale at email@example.com or Misty Hathcock at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or if you are interested in reading more about DKG and its mission, check out the website: deltakappagamma.org.
You can find more information about the local DKG chapter at http://www.deltakappagamma.org/NC-betatau/.