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