"The glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man is the vision of God." -St Irenaeus of Lyon

An Open Letter

To public school teachers everywhere:

Welcome to May ladies and gentlemen.  A special congratulations to those teachers preparing their students for AP and IB exams.  It is an insane time.  I know we just recognized mothers yesterday in the US, but I wanted to take a minute to thank you for all that you do.

So often, teaching amounts to a thankless job.  And the perks good teachers look for cannot be measured by a paycheck or additional benefits.  No, the things that kept me going as a teacher were those moments where my students got it, the totally unsolicited email affirming a job well done, a particularly creative piece of student work…  The joint surprises of student success and professional appreciation managed to do a lot.

But I am not going to lie when I say that I am more than a little freaked out with the realities I see on the horizon for next year.  It seems like more and more states are reducing teaching staff, stretching already over-stretched teachers further.  The situation is not unique to education.  The economic realities have forced a real shake-up of just about everything.  Yet more and more teachers get laid off, and the few that remain must do increasingly more with significantly less for a huge number of students.

I do not think that the answer is encouraging teachers to dig deeper into their reserves.  Yet I would like to do something a little closer to the teaching and learning interface than just go after a misguided culture of accountability that sniffs out failure with scant regard for success.  I know the need to encourage respect for all that teachers do.  Yet I would like to do more than just pat teachers on the back.

I know the rather fantastic organization DonorsChoose where people like me can look up your classroom projects, supporting you as you seek to provide innovative projects or as you realize you have exhausted the copying budget yet again.  It is great when I have the money in my personal pocket, but I think it is a band-aid measure to some bigger problems.  Yet I think there are some other ways I can support what is going on in my local schools other than simply voting for politicians that I think will work towards reasonable educational policy.

So, my teaching friends, what can a concerned citizen like me actually do to make your life teaching a bit more enjoyable?  Hit the comments with your wish list but let’s go beyond the financial realities.  Let’s try to think of as many different creative ways that just a regular adult in the community can help out, or maybe the community as a whole.  Think big, reach for the sky, propose utter wackiness just for the sake of making a proposal.  As teachers, you have a unique perspective.  What do children-centered, schooling-supportive communities look like?

Your friendly, neighborhood practicing human


6 responses

  1. Mel

    Bless you for WANTING to help and for putting it into words. May more people read your comment. As an elementary school administrator, I am thinking about what you wrote in your last paragraph. I will do that and encourage my teachers to do the same: “think big, reach for the sky, propose utter wackiness just for the sake of making a proposal.” Isn’t that how many great things got started?

    29 June 2010 at 2:32 pm

    • Hi Mel,
      Thanks for dropping by the blog and leaving a comment. I do hope that your teachers can identify some great ideas that go far beyond the expected towards the absolutely wonderful.

      29 June 2010 at 3:37 pm

  2. Bob

    How interesting it is that this “response” to the NEA article was summarily panned by the readers. I would guess they didn’t even peruse your commentary.

    That said, let me give you my insight as a teacher of some 15 years. You ask what you can do as a concerned citizen for teachers. You ask to go beyond financial realities and be creative. Sadly, the answer is much easier to achieve and, at the same time, an insurmountable task.

    The short answer: Parents must hold their children accountable for their actions. Period.

    The not-so-short answer: We have devolved into a litigious (albeit educated) society that somehow poo-poos respect for adult authority. The “don’t trust anyone over 30” crowd have become grandparents and their children have taught a new generation a broad sense of entitlement. When I teach, I fight the “me” mentality, and I struggle to get kids to think about their part in the great circle of life. School is just some game that they have to win; get a passing grade and you can pass to the next level. There is no concept of real application being taught; it is just academic. So the “me” mentality persists because kids are narrowly focused on self-gratifying achievement.

    The parents are a different problem. Raising multiple children sired out of wedlock and in a one-earner home, these parents barely have time for themselves nevermind the four to seven kids who yearn for their attention. A principal of mine once said that I would always have a job because, “the uneducated are the ones having kids.” Her point: college degree-holders realize the costs involved in child-rearing (both time and money) and limit the procreation to two or less. So read it this way: the non-education of America’s children is being exponetially increased through the inability to reach the uneducated before they become a parent.

    But, hey, sex feels good, right? After all, we teach sex education to kids as young as 4th GRADE!! Why? Because we, as teachers (and administrators and legislators and voters), think the parents are doing a pretty poor job of it. So we expose them to an education of reproduction with no balance to abstinence (only avoidance of STD’s), the teen pregnancy rate goes through the roof, and we respond with … free CONDOMS!!! But I disgress…

    When the Bible talks about how the righteous man is blessed for many generations, but the wicked will be cursed for many generations, I think of these things. Ignorance propagates ingnorance. What can we do? We have to find a way to break the cycle.

    1 November 2010 at 7:47 pm

    • Hello Bob! Thanks for your comment. I’m rather surprised that my inquiry about how to support teachers was so strongly disliked. Trackbacks work independent of context.

      The question of accountability and responsibility is a hard one. Your comment inspired me to miss some of my younger friends who are well-parented and under 6. I myself am not a parent so it is difficult to imagine how I could help with the task of parents holding their children accountable. Too often, we regard education as the answer for misguided decisions. Yet I think we’re missing something fundamental at the core of being human.

      2 November 2010 at 11:55 am

  3. Pingback: Oh no, Not responsibility! « A Practicing Human

  4. DN

    I do have to comment regarding something on the different side of Bob’s comment. What about the parent’s that do not hold their children accountable for their actions along with making excuses for them? These are educated and non-educated parents. The child that gets kicked off a sports team for drinking and the parent gets a lawyer to overturn the coach. Or of the teacher that tries to hold a child accountable for not finishing a paper that is due. What does the parent do? Allow the child to call in sick. Or the student that forgot their paper at home and mom or dad quick run home to pick it up. To learn as one grows up is to accept that no one is perfect while there has to be ramifications for things that are a person has done. It is also ok to have some “failure” in life. One learns how to deal with it when it occurs. Parents have a responsibility to show by example. If a parent lies, that displays it is ok to lie. The list goes on and on. I am using very simplistic examples although there are many wonderful parents and teachers that have the best intentions. What occurs is an enviroment of the “me” for the child/student. I do feel that no matter what one does as a parent/teacher, there are people that will find fault. Is it because there are those that don’t want to take responsibility for themselves and blame others? Hard to say. It is literally everyone’s responsiblity. Parents are the first teacher. There are children that have overcome some very challenging childhoods although they do and can succeed if they find strength within themselves along with having a faith to help lead them to were they need to go. I do agree that there are those parents that have too many children although one can not blame the child. I too have tried to make a difference with those children. Some I have succeeded with, some not so much. All we can do is try and hope and pray that God will give us the strength to make a difference.

    14 November 2010 at 11:33 pm

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