Labor Day Special Edition: The Labor of Teachers
Today is Labor Day here in the United States of America. While officially a day to honor the men and women who fought for the rights of workers to collectively bargain and form unions, it has become the official end of summer, a day to have one more cook-out, one more picnic, or one more beach outing before we settle down into our non-summer routines and stop working on our tans.
But I think it is important to honour those who labour, and today I choose to honour those who labour alongside me in our schools. Education is often prominently featured in the news. Most of the time, these features are negative and depressing. Just this weekend, the New York Times published an article about the supposed failings of technology in the classroom to help improve test scores–as if that is the only reason we do anything in our schools! But there was also an op-ed piece in praise of teachers. I admit that I did not read the entirety of the first article; in fact, I gave up after the first page because it seemed so depressingly disconnected from the reality of what I do as an educator!
The second piece makes a great point: our nation says it wants to have the best and the brightest teaching in our schools, but then these same people turn around and malign and blame teachers for everything that goes on, all the while paying very little and demanding long hours.
I don’t mind the low pay; I don’t know any teacher who went into professional education because of the great salary and excellent benefits. I don’t mind the hours; I enjoy what I do and I do what I enjoy. I do mind the constant negativity. I am so very grateful that I am not surrounded by those who malign and blame. My colleagues, my family, my friends, and the parents of my students are all supportive. But the blame has to stop, particularly at the government level, where the policy-makers seem to think they are at war with the educators. We are all on the same side: the side that wants to see the very best for each and every student in our nation and, really, in our world.
I will be forever indebted to my own fourth grade teacher, Ms. Kathy McNamara, who inspired me to pursue excellence in my life and, in the process of the pursuit, set me on a path that led me to where I am today. I will be forever indebted to the many other teachers I have had in my life. Some of my other greatest teachers were Mr. Mike Adams, who taught me math in 7th and 8th grade; Mr. Rob Bell, who taught me science in 8th grade and coached my middle school scholastic bowl team; Mrs. Lara Reem, my high school choir director, who taught me to sing; Mr. Jim Tallman, my high school band director, who filled me with a love of music and performance, but was also my scholastic bowl coach, who taught us that smart people knew how to have fun; Mr. Jerry Madsen, my freshman English teacher, who taught me to love Shakespeare and to hate the words “stuff” and “thing”; Mr. Charles Brunner, my calculus teacher, who taught me to love math in a way that I never thought possible.
To all of my teachers and all of my colleagues throughout the world: Thank you. Thank you for knowing what teachers really make:
Enjoy the day off!