Monday, May 21, 2007

In Praise of Teachers

Three days left; three short days that OG has to go in this, her first-grade year.

I can't praise her teachers, last year and this year, enough. I know, I just KNOW, that she is more challenging than they let on. But, they've never called me, never gotten her in trouble. (The only school area that OG has ever had difficulty in is music, and even then, it's been fairly minor, and pretty rare.)

This being the end of school, I send a tribute to them, and to all teachers:

Ladies, and gentlemen, of the profession; you have earned my respect.

I've been one of you. I taught for seven years in the public schools. My mother was one of you, but better than I; she lasted for 35 years. And, I continue to count many, many of you amongst my friends.

You hold up, don't you? You show up every year, ready to form twenty-two (or vastly more) wayward minds into some semblance of a civilized human being. In the best-case scenario, you have raw materials that are fed, rested, and parented by concerned individuals, and 185 days, to get this accomplished.

Most of you do not have the best-case scenario. Many of you have the worst-case scenario. If you've been in the profession for longer than a year, you have heard stories that make you shudder. If you've been in it for longer than three years, you have heard stories that have made you cry.

And, what do we hear in the papers about you? Sex scandals! No Child Left Behind! Everything, it seems, is printed to ensure that the American public becomes more and more distrustful of you. You are portrayed essentially as either child molesters or slackers, or people who weren't smart enough to make it in the business world.

All of you out there - teachers, people who had good teachers, people whose parents were teachers, people whose children have good teachers - FIGHT THIS PERCEPTION.

I have known hundreds of teachers in my life. Some were incredibly excellent; most were good to really good. Some, yes, were mediocre, or even poor to really crappy. But they were a SLIM minority. (Sadly, they stand out, even in my memory.)

Undeniably, like in any profession, some are gifted, and others are absolutely not. What's important to realize is is that vast majority of teachers are, at the very least, dedicated and caring professionals who work very, very hard, constantly, to become better at what they do. And buying into the media perception - and yes, that of this anti-education administration - degrades and diminishes them.

I think Taylor Mali says it best, in three minutes:

Send this to a teacher you know, and love.

And, happy summer, y'all.

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