Monday, July 20, 2020

Tough Times for America's Teachers

When I was six years old, I decided I wanted to be a teacher. I mainly made this decision because kindergarten was such a life changing event for me. I LOVED learning and I experienced what learning could do for your life.

Later, when a sibling experienced great struggle in school, I wanted to be a teacher more because I wanted to teach in ways that elevated lives rather than make children feel bad about their learning challenges. I wanted to help children experience the positivity I experienced in school.

I continued my education, went to college, worked in business, and later attended graduate school to fulfill my six-year-old dream to teach. Some family members were approving of my decision and others were disproving, but I was convinced it was the right career path for me.

So for the past 34 years I've been teaching. I worked hard every day of my teaching career. I spent considerable time and money honing my craft throughout those years. In many ways, I was obsessed with the limitless proposition teaching presented as there were so many ways to do it better, learn more, and craft amazing learning experiences for students.

Throughout my career, I also always struggled with many education managers. My will to make change, try out new ideas, and better our approach was often met with lack of support and pushback. It was often discouraging and at one point almost career-ending due to the oppressive, mean, and unfair treatment I received, but I persisted. While not perfect, my intentions were always good and I was willing to learn. I was not willing to sell my values to prop up someone's ambition with support for unjust, misdirected, and poor decisions and actions. I am proud that I was able to stick by my values, own my errors, and continue learning and doing my best.

Throughout my career, it has also been apparent that many don't respect or reward teachers. Lip service comes easy, but when it comes to optimal pay, apt working conditions, and substantial support, that's like milking a rock--people don't want to support teachers. Never has this been so clear as the current national discussions related to sending teachers back to work in unsafe conditions during a pandemic. The national conversation is depressing and heartbreaking. Rather than a typical teacher's summer of honing skills and readying for the year ahead, teachers everywhere are upset, worried, and making new plans. It is one more sad reality in America today--one more loss during the terrorizing Trump years.

That said, I am proud of my choice to be a teacher. Has it ended as I hoped--no. I wish I could have left the profession better than when I started, but unfortunately the political and corporate pressures to dumb down America and create an ignorant servant class are as strong as a tsunami right now. Few to none seem to regard education as the life-enriching, life-changing asset that it is. This is very sad. However, I am proud because I always did my best to teach and serve children well. I still believe that education is a tremendous, enriching, and essential aspect to living--a well educated populace is a more peaceful and happier populace.

In the next few weeks, I'll decide my next steps. I'm listening carefully to the conversations about what to do with and for teachers, and while there's a ray of hope here and there, the dialogue is mostly scary, dangerous, and unsupportive. Clearly, people don't really care about teachers or education. If they did, the national conversation would be much different.

It's tough times for America's teachers. What will they do? Time will tell.