“The American Teacher” Should be People of the Year, every year

An Ode to the Public School Teacher

The fact that public school teachers have been overworked and underpaid for years is not news.  Way too many of us have been saying it for years, at least a decade, and in some places longer than that.  Some might say the burdens that have been laid upon our teachers’ shoulders is a tribute to how much we as a society rely on them, or is it a case where politicians, legislators, and national and state education “leaders” just found it to be an easy dumping ground for political messaging and/or passing the buck for accountability’s sake.

The truly sad thing is, if you are not a teacher, don’t have a teacher as a spouse, or immediate family member,  it’s easy to talk about our teachers in this regard and pay lip service to what makes for a good sound bite.  

People Magazine had the right idea, though, when they proclaimed our nation’s teachers as “2021 People of the Year”.   As they so rightfully put it:

“And then there are our nation’s teachers, whose resilience has been unbelievably inspiring these past two years. Juliana Urtubey, National Teacher of the Year, was chosen along with finalists John Arthur, Alejandro Diasgranados and Maureen Stover to represent the 3 million-plus classroom heroes who have gone above and beyond to ensure our nation’s kids have bright opportunities ahead. Our future depends on supporting them and their work.”

https://people.com/celebrity/people-magazine-2021-people-of-the-year/

https://www.weareteachers.com/people-of-the-year-teachers/?utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook&fbclid=IwAR3nvTzRyR9T0HM4o0kfYLFYLvaK4Um3OgUivJOyjMtGXE6lMUeBUAShfM0#Echobox=1639149546

Worth repeating:  “Our future depends on supporting them and their work.”

An interesting contrast with the South Dakota Teachers Dash for Cash, where ten teachers were selected from local area schools to “scramble to grab” at whatever they could pick up from 5,000 one dollar bills.  The scene shows the educators (decked out in hockey gear) on their knees in the center of the hockey rink clawing away at whatever they can get their hands on. 

https://www.npr.org/2021/12/14/1064091771/south-dakota-teachers-dash-for-cash?utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&fbclid=IwAR2nKi0FnUy8Vf9Gg6C6JLo564rF4e08Ga2y7bSMX_Tqmm19eZ4LnfHtZl8

“Organizers said all the money the teachers could grab would be used for their own classrooms and school programs, and they had framed it as a way to help educators amid the stressors of the coronavirus pandemic.

While the organizers later decided to donate an additional $15,500 to area teachers after being called out for “appearing to be degrading and insulting”,  the irony is this is a more accurate visual of how we really do treat our teachers.  

We’ve come to expect that our teachers will be front and center to advocate and lobby legislators and taxpayers for more funds, either in testimonials before legislative committees or knocking on voters’ doors asking for support of tax increases for schools.  They advocate for more education funding:  to help pay their own salaries, so districts can afford to hire more teachers or staff to provide either smaller classroom sizes, or support for more students in large classroom sizes, or help with students who need more individual attention.  

As we’ve already established, teachers don’t just teach.

  • They function as one of the primary advocates for public education funding.  
  • They also share in the protocols now called for to combat COVID in the schools (this means a combination of things such as wearing a mask, keeping their students safe, wiping down surfaces, etc.).  
  • They are on the constant look out for students who may be dealing with mental health issues, physical or mental abuse, or neglect.  
  • They undergo safety training and are the first line of defense and stand between their students and any intruders. 

And more, all while working in a classroom of students – usually an overcrowded classroom – and lately it’s been a combination of on-line learners mixed with students in the classroom. Due to existing circumstances, their time for professional development and planning is extremely limited – and now so desperately needed while they work to figure out the best way to reach students who may be falling behind due to COVID quarantines, on-line lessons, etc.  Trying to figure out the best way to provide a quality learning experience for all of their students.  Oh, yeah, while doing all those other things we mentioned above, plus some. 

It’s no wonder, as the Colorado Education Association (CEA) recently reported, our teachers are burning out and considering leaving the profession – two out of three.  But let’s not forget, before COVID, Colorado already had a statewide teacher shortage of 3,000 plus.

Additionally, only 1% of CEA members claim to feel valued by our state leaders.  (A reminder they are front and center when it comes time to advocate and testify before legislative committees); and only 10% of CEA members say they feel valued by their respective school districts.

These last two COVID years (and the resulting political climate) have made for even greater stress for teachers when they find themselves targeted by parents and community members who don’t agree with district policies regarding masks, vaccinations, and other COVID protocols set in place by the Health Department and district leadership.  And let’s not forget those parents who now chose to strike out at teachers over the CRT issue (which is especially regretful when most of those doing the striking don’t have a clue what they are talking about). 

https://co.chalkbeat.org/2021/12/14/22836478/colorado-education-association-report-teacher-burnout-pay-shortages?fbclid=IwAR1ABi7pdRL9rOngalgopiO1_5-lSHyIvfxP_CRP6ajmRC-_RIR4su7YaII

People Magazine refers to teachers as our “Classroom Heroes”.  That’s truly an understatement.  As Peter Greene says in his blog entitled:  

Dear Teacher Near the End Of Your Rope

“…there will be students who need you, who will benefit from your presence … to assure you that while you may feel as if you’re shoveling jello with a pitchfork, your efforts are not wasted. You are not doing this for nothing. Sometimes it takes all your effort and energy just to keep from moving backwards, but holding that line, or even reducing the amount of ground you give up–that’s not nothing. Only you can decide if it’s enough, but it’s not nothing.”

https://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2021/12/dear-teacher-near-end-of-your-rope.html?spref=fb&m=1&fbclid=IwAR1Qg4aqnbeScNbUaVb13JyEleYE7zlQ3O2EPlqCL61vPnDvJUDKd_fNRFA

For another look at the challenges teachers face today, check out this 8 minute listen from NPR https://www.npr.org/2021/12/23/1067077413/teachers-pandemic-school-classroom-return-to-in-person-learning

Our Ode to Teachers, our Classroom Heroes:  

Thank you.  We’re sorry.  We will try to do better to support you and hope that everyone reading this will do the same.

 

 

For more on the education crisis:  

Forbes, Why Education is about to reach a crisis of epic proportions

https://www.forbes.com/sites/markcperna/2022/01/04/why-education-is-about-to-reach-a-crisis-of-epic-proportions/?sh=4cf5d1f78c7b