I had some thoughts that were stirred by the discussion of Finland schools on KOTV – The News on Six earlier this evening. There are many things to talk about, so I will attempt to focus on one issue.
In Finland teachers are treated with respect and the nation’s education system is largely in their hands. We used to have this in the USA. And we have lost it.
Here is something I have noticed. There are instances where a teacher has a long tenure in a school and is highly respected. These teachers get a lot of good things done. I visited the band program at Grove, Ok. Joe Wilhelm is the band director and his son, Joseph Willhelm III is his assistant. In the past sixty some years Grove has had two band directors. Joe has been there for some thirty five years, first as an assistant and now as the head director. The program is respected and is of consistently high quality. People in Grove speak highly of the band as well. I am sure you can’t ever make every single person happy, but it is obvious that the respect of the community and the willingness to follow the leadership of a great teacher has resulted in a program that has been a great blessing to the students of Grove High School for a long, long time.
This is the way it is supposed to work. I remember hearing about Coach Joe Ross of Thomas, OK. I happen to know his daughter. She married one of my good friends. (This was a big step up for him.) Coach Ross was inducted into the Oklahoma Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1967. I don’t know how many years his team won the district football championship. It was a lot. Everything I said about the Grove band applied to the Thomas football team. Coach Ross knew how to teach football. His teams just did not make mistakes. And his players learned more than football plays.
My oldest son had the pleasure of having two wonderful English teachers who had long tenures who were great teachers backwards and forwards. Mrs. Word (she remarried) at Childers Middle School in Broken Arrow taught her students about writing papers, which was not technically in the 8th grade curriculum. He asked her to attend the Academic All-State banquet with him as his teacher guest. Mrs. Hayden, his Junior English teacher, was similar. A long tenured respected teacher who know what she was doing. He just finished his PhD in economics and he now basically writes papers for a good bit of his living.
People trust the Wilhelms in Grove.. They trusted Coach Ross in Thomas. Same with Mrs. Word and Mrs. Hayden in Broken Arrow. In Muskogee they trusted Eddie Jeffries, my long suffering math teacher. We all have stories of such teachers. Some would have you believe that teachers like this have gone the way of the dinosaur. Too many of them have indeed retired in self defense. But they are still there. And there would be more if they were loved, trusted, and encouraged.
A lot has happened it the USA to undermine this trust. I won’t go into it now, but we have all seen it. And the treatment of teachers has undermined the entire education system. Once the air of mistrust is created, people question paying teachers. Teachers are often treated poorly as well. Gifted college students change their majors. Experienced teachers retire as soon as they can. The schools have to hire uncertified teachers. This causes the public not to trust teachers.. And the circle continues.
This may not be where you think it is going. I am just encouraging all of us to respect, encourage, and even to love teachers. That includes teachers. Teachers need to do all of that for each other. I taught it a school system ( Broken Arrow ) where the PTA made a big deal out of Teacher Appreciation Week. This was awesome. But lets appreciate teachers year round.
When you hear someone talk negative garbage about schools and teachers step up like a redneck protecting his woman in a bar fight. Or perhaps a mama bear protecting her cubs. Become Gandalf fighting the balrog in the mines of Moria: YOU.SHALL.NOT.INSULT.OUR.TEACHERS.
I know sometime it is tempting to join in with talk smack about teachers in other locations cities or states. Because any time a teacher in the USA does something stupid it goes viral. (There are people who want to make this happen and it does.) But those great moments where a teacher reaches a student (finally) or figures out that something is up with them and gets them the help that literally saves their life…ALL OF US WHO TEACH HAVE SEEN THESE MIRACLES HAPPEN. (Sorry for shouting.) This is what education is about. Not the outliers who seem to make the headlines. It is our mission to carry the truth of this to everyone who will read or listen.
So show a little respect and appreciation when you have the chance. More miracles will happen if you support your teachers. And a raise wouldn’t hurt them either.
I’ll be quiet now.