Last week, I spent three days in Greece, at the invitation of a colleague from the project. I was so warmly welcomed (and not only by the temperatures, which were much better than here in NL!) by organisers and participants from both the Ministry of Education where I did a training seminar, and the University of Athens where I did a guest lecture for undergraduate education students.
As you all may know, Greece is in the midst of an economic crisis, affecting all sectors of society, but especially civil servants. Despite job cuts, salary cuts, lack of funding for travel expenses, these teachers and teacher supervisors are still working as hard as always to do their jobs, and do them well. Teachers in Greece have seen their salaries cut as much as 60% in the last years. The undergraduate students that I met on Thursday can look forward to a first job (if they can find one) with a salary of 570 euros/month. The teacher supervisors that I met at the Ministry of Education oversee schools in large areas, and pay out of pocket to visit their schools and teachers. These educators are working to better the provision of language education in primary schools and to better support children with home languages other than Greek. The dedication of these educators and all who work with them is something to contemplate, as we go into a season of excess in many parts of the world.
Teachers have always worked hard, often for not a lot of recognition and recompense. Teachers in many parts of world do their jobs as much out of dedication for their students and their profession as for the financial rewards, and the teachers in Greece are the visible face of that right now.
My hat is off to all educators who strive to educate children, and to continue educating themselves, in face of economic and political hardship. My thoughts this holiday season are with my Greek colleagues and friends, and with all teachers working in difficult conditions, to do a difficult job.

Happy holidays, whatever your celebrations are, and see you in 2013.