The shift has been gradual but upsetting all the same. No longer are teachers automatically respected for their commitment to young people. When I was a beginning teacher the community assumed that teachers deserved respect for entering a profession committed to helping their children grow toward success. Parents supported the teacher’s decisions. If a kid was in trouble at school, the kid was in more trouble at home. Parents supported the schools. They assumed that behavior guidelines were in the best interest of their child and the classroom at large.
I understand that respect must be earned. There is a very small percentage of teachers whose names we see in the media, who clearly deserve no respect. These situations make me heartsick and even furious. I am angry that those few sully the reputation of a profession that I revere.
But beyond the few who never should have been allowed into the profession, the vast majority of teachers are incredibly hard-working and selfless. They will do anything to help a child succeed.
Yet somehow it has become so fashionable to speak out against teachers and schools that it has turned into an acceptable parade of negative comments. You hear it everywhere. Politicians, media members, community leaders, and parents sitting on the sidelines at school functions have joined the band of negativity. Trashing teachers has somehow become politically correct.
During my last decade of full-time teaching I taught high school students in a Teacher Academy program. This was a wonderful group of students who already had identified a passion for teaching even in their teen years. They were a pleasure to teach and mentor. They were such positive role models within our high school. Their enthusiasm for helping others using the teaching profession just bubbled over. Lauren was one of those enthusiasts. Most of them are young full-time teachers now. But many of the stories they share with me sadden me.
Listen in as I share one. A couple of weekends ago I ran into Lauren at a gymnastics meet. She is currently teaching second grade. During the week that I ran into her she had stayed late for Parent Teacher conference night. A father of one of her students had screamed and screamed at her during the “conference.”
“You’re a fool!” he screamed. After several minutes of this she finally told him he would have to call the Principal and set up another appointment if he wanted to continue the conference with her. He continued to yell so she left her classroom in fear. As she walked down the hallway he followed her screaming. She went into the first empty classroom she could find, stepped inside, closed the door and leaned against the door. She was afraid to go to her car without an escort that night when the conferences ended. She had just purchased her first home in this community. She was afraid to drive straight home to her house for fear that he might be following her. The next day the school was on “lock down” worried that he might return to school and do harm to her or children.
What made this father so angry? His son didn’t follow classroom behavior guidelines and his teacher took away a privilege. Is there any surprise that the child had trouble following behavior guidelines? What was the consequence for the father? The police security officer called him on the phone the next day and the dad apologized to the officer. End of story.
Now a young lady who is such an asset to the teaching profession and her students, is left wondering if she wants to remain in the profession. When did it become OK to follow a teacher down the hallway yelling at her? When did it become socially acceptable to bad mouth teachers in the community?
My close friend has a daughter who entered the teaching profession within the past five years. People now come up to my friend and criticize schools and teachers. She is surprised at how they seek her out to say something negative about the education system. But I’m not.
Teachers have become targets. Somehow we’ve got to turn that around. Trashing teachers doesn’t fix anything. It just drives some of the very best people away from a worthy profession and the students who need them so much.
TEACH…To Change Lives
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