Vail Daily column: Take a stand for teachers
May 5, 2015
This week is national Thank a Teacher Week. Toward that end, I hope you'll join me in taking a moment to reach out and find a teacher who made a difference in your life, or the lives of your children and recognize them for their service and commitment. I'd venture everyone had some professional educator who had a profound impact on them and who inspired each of us to be and do more than we thought we were capable.
Across the country, articles and columns just like this one are appearing. Some urge readers to follow through on the name of the week and "thank a teacher," as I have. Others take a more personal turn, recounting an educator who had a meaningful impact on the writer.
I'd like to take it a bit further and ask you to do more than just "thank" a teacher — instead, I'd like you to take a stand for them and for this noble profession.
Don't get me wrong — expressing appreciation for our professional educators is great and we should be doing more of that! Those educators working hard with our kids every day need some encouragement and a pat on the back. For those that feel inspired, a tray of cupcakes or some gourmet coffee dropped off at the faculty lounge would be greatly appreciated, I'm sure!
But in addition to a word of praise on Facebook or an email to a former educator who made an impact, I wonder if each person reading this can make a personal commitment to support and stand up for our professional educators. What our teachers need is someone to have their back.
So, I challenge you. Commit to take a stand on behalf of teachers and the teaching profession. Specifically, this means the following.
• Commit to talking to others about the service aspect of teaching. No one goes into this field to get rich — educators go into it to serve families and kids, to help shape dreams and turn them into a reality.
• Commit to fighting for more resources for teachers. Relatively low salaries (especially for college educated professionals), large class sizes, lacking curricular and technological resources — these things are the norm (not the exception) for our teachers. It is true, money can't solve all of our problems; but it can solve a bunch of them.
• Commit to set straight those who run down the teaching profession and public schools. Public education is an institution with roots deep within the writing and thinking of the founding fathers. This country (with the most resilient and stable economy, the most powerful military and the most successful democracy in the history of earth) is populated and driven by talented citizens, 91 percent of whom were educated in our public schools. Fiercely defend this institution from its detractors.
• Commit to setting straight those who presume to know how teachers should teach and how schools should be run, using the fact that they went to school as their pedigree. Teaching is difficult, iterative, detailed and complex work that is simultaneously exhausting and exhilarating. Challenge the know-it-all critic to go visit their community school and see what a professional teacher actually does, the challenges they face and the joys that make it all worth the effort.
• Commit to being skeptical about education "reforms" advanced by politicians, a few corporations and ideological "think-tanks." Our democracy is a free market of ideas and everyone can bring something to the table. But I can tell you that the agendas brought forth by these groups create gigantic distractions that have little to do with the micro-level work of teaching and learning. It is virtuous to listen; it is even more so to be critical.
So, on this occasion to "thank a teacher," do that! They will appreciate it, remember it and it might be just the thing that keeps that weary teacher going. But, for those who have the courage, commit to the bigger challenge. A pat on the back is appreciated. But someone having your back is a whole other level of commitment.
Jason E. Glass is the superintendent of Eagle County Schools. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.