Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Change in Perspective

Today I was heading for one of my 20 mile drives through cornfields to get groceries. As always, this is a good time to think things over. My mind was dwelling today on the state of education in our country. In case you have been residing in a cave for the last few years, it isn’t good. The media is constantly vilifying educators, administrators, and schools in general. Before leaving home I had glanced at Twitter. Diane Ravitch had posted the following tweet:

How have we gotten here? When talking to fellow teachers, many feel under attack – and not just from the government. Morale is at an all time low. Students are showing a lack of respect for teachers, as are parents. We are torn apart in the news. New laws come in, more is asked of us and our time, but nothing is ever taken away.  Funding is cut, classroom budgets shrink. We don’t get paid an exorbitant salary and many pour some of that salary back into their classroom. (Classroom library, in my case)

“Bad” teachers make the news – ones that are cruel to the students, lazy, cheat on the high stakes tests, etc. Public Education is criticized daily. Education is held up in comparison to countries 1/50 of our size with little to no poverty. The message is that they are successful, we are not. How can we possibly turn this around? Sometimes it is enough for me to feel hopeless. Luckily for me, today I paused. Does public education have room to grow? Absolutely! But are there good things happening? Are there good teachers? I would say yes.

What is it about our country that we want to sensationalize the bad? Why aren’t good deeds done by others front-page news? Yes, there are bad teachers out there, but there are bad doctors, lawyers, police officers, cooks, etc. I would argue that the percentage of hard working, caring teachers far outnumbers the bad. I know this because I have seen it.

My boys are nine and six. We have been blessed with amazing teachers.

Teachers who attend their students sporting events on their weekends. Teachers who work outside of the school day to make extra time for the children who need just a bit more.
Teachers who eat lunch with their students.
Teachers who take the time to learn who their students are.
Teachers who write letters to their students about their reading.
Teachers who show compassion and caring for the child who is lost and doesn't fit in.
Teachers who work to make their students feel accepted for who they are.
Teachers who work 80 hours a week and give up many weekends.
Teachers who pour their own money into classroom materials.
Teachers who model what it is to be a good citizen.
Teachers who love our children.

I also work with amazing teachers.

Ones who go to conferences on their own time.
Ones who meet for book clubs on professional reading in the summers.
Ones who brainstorm ways to use technology on the weekends and then share their learning.
Ones who email articles regarding education for “fun” reading.
Ones who eat breakfast in their classrooms with students long before their “work day” starts just to help them get the day off on the right foot.
Ones who devote themselves to this career knowing there is not a lot of praise,
no monetary awards, no benefits other than the satisfaction of helping a student grasp the concept.
Ones who love students and teaching.

So as I start this New Year I am choosing to shift my perspective. While I know there are teachers that need to improve, I am going to focus on the fact that at least 95% of the teachers I know are amazing. I am going to work to thank the teachers I know for the unbelievable work they are doing. As a parent, I will back my children’s teachers. I will work to ensure that my children are respectful. I will thank them for the amazing job they do on a daily basis. And I plan to pray for the day that the rest of the country realizes we need to recognize the good in each other, not dwell on the negative. We can all do better, but if we worked to see all of the wonder already surrounding us, we’d be in a much better place.

A special thank you to Mrs. Coleman, Mrs. Donovan, Mrs. Munster, Mrs. Welter, Mrs. Reedy, Mrs. McHale, Mrs. Bower, Mrs. Allgeier, Mrs. Crook, and Miss Plecki for teaching our boys. And Ms. Tuck for being my Miss Stretchberry.