Sunday, March 06, 2011

To the Detractors

Dear talking heads and political posturers,

I have had it with your assault on teachers and public schools. I want you to know that I am thankful for my public school teachers who instructed and inspired me, and that I go to work every day with the goal of instructing and inspiring my students.

I am tired of being slandered and maligned. I am not a thug out to game the system. I have a master's degree, and I got straight A's in grad school. My workday stretches far beyond my contracted hours. I prepare lessons for six different classes at the high school where I teach. I have built a website of study tools for my students because I don't teach commonly taught subjects and appropriate quality tools can be hard to find.

Your laws mandating testing have glorified mediocrity, encouraged cheating, and moved money from the classrooms to the companies that make the tests. Your push to pay teachers based on their students' performance (à la Race to the Top) will only drive the best teachers out of the low-income areas (like the district where I work) where they are desperately needed.

I love teaching, but the stress from the politicking is a nightmare. I have news for you: I am not just a babysitter; I didn't get into teaching for the cushy pay; I take work home every night and weekend, and I teach at a local university year round (read: I WORK SUMMERS). It started off as something to do purely for enjoyment, but with a freeze in pay for four years, it has also become a way to make ends meet.

I want you to know the truth: I work with many great teachers, including a number who have been mentors, heroes, and sounding boards for me as I have learned my craft. We don't deserve to be painted with broad strokes as the foundational problem with society or with the economy. We rightfully take pride in the successes we achieve. Many of these successes are difficult to quantify and difficult to attribute to one pinpointed cause. But aren't we all made up of layers of experience? Shouldn't we work to educate the whole child: not just to improve skills in mathematics and reading, but also to encourage ingenuity, ethical behavior, civic involvement, cross-cultural understanding, and curiosity?

And please, don't call me a snively whiner for standing up for myself and my profession. I do a good job, and I'm not going to pretend that I don't. Don't tell me that I should shut up and be thankful for my job. I am thankful for my job. I feel incredibly blessed to have such rewarding work. I also worked very hard to qualify to be where I am. And one of the greatest difficulties in my job, especially in light of the push toward mediocrity brought on by misguided reforms like No Child Left Behind, is teaching my students that such hard work really is irreplaceable in the end. So I'm not going to shut up and let you make my job even harder.

Tomorrow I will go to work and I will teach, not to impress you, but because I know my students are deserving of my best efforts on their behalf. If you're at all interested in improving the future, you'll stand behind us. If not, you'd better get out of our way.


Woods Family said...

Amen sister!!!

kalmanblog said...

Your mom sent this to me and all I can say is fight back with the forcefulness you show in this blog. Time to fight back and your words are fighting words, fighting for the recognition deserved, fighting for the dignity of the critical profession in this democracy.

Izzybella said...

I love you. That is all.

The Bumbles said...

Stay stubborn, do well. Know you are appreciated. Maybe not by the folks who set your pay or create your guidelines. But by the real people who will grow up to be adults that admire their former teacher more than anyone.