We Have to Tell People Our Story

The churn of school faculties has been going on for longer than people want to admit. It is worse now and will continue to spread without positive intervention.

Here is what I saw as a parent. My sons are separated by seven years. The older of the two had a nearly unbroken chain of not competent, or merely good, or even above average, but rather rock star teachers of English and Language Arts in middle and high school. They had all been teaching English a long time. His education in reading and writing was excellent and served him well in college and in life. He basically collects a lot of data and writes papers. Who knew that writing research papers was going to be a career?

My younger son seemed to have the new teacher that replaced the long established teacher at every level. It was a totally different experience. He had caring teachers that were working hard and doing well. But it was obvious that the school district had lost some fantastic teachers to retirement. One, so far as I know, moved out of state to teach. My son has done awesome in college. But over time the loss of teachers to other states, to private business, and, yes, to a well-earned retirement is gradually pulling this state down. It is starting to pull on schools that have historically been very stable. I retired in 2014 from a very stable school.Many of the teachers had taught in the building since it opened. Many of the others had never taught in another school. Now, when I go back to visit in 2018, there are so many new faces. Even some of the younger teachers have moved on. My old position has been filed by three different teachers since I left.

People outside of schools do not understand the organic process of leadership, mentoring, and encouragement that happens when one generation of teachers passes the torch over time to other teachers. There is little documentation of how this works. But schools all have a culture and it is the basis for how they prepare students for life.

WE ARE LOSING THIS PROCESS. The damage that has been done to how we educate students due to poor financial support cannot be estimated. We are losing experienced teachers. New teachers do not stay as long. We are sending our very best to other states and other occupations. And too many of our very best who are in college choose not to go into education majors.

Our mission is to change the direction of public education in this state. It is no small task. We can disagree at times about strategy. But we must over time unify in this mission. There is too much at stake. We are talking about the future of our state, our children, our grand children, our culture. We must focus, not on the shortcomings of our allies in the fight, but on those who have the power to fix this problem. We must keep in mind the objectives. It is not how we prevail. It is not about who gets the credit. It is not about what we may have done wrong. It is about why. Why do we spend time we do not have and money that is in short supply? Why do we talk of shutting down schools when all we want to do is teach? Why do we care so much about getting this right? We know how big the problem is. We are livid about the attacks on schools and teachers. We know what needs to be done to fix this situation. (Hint: It is not more testing and larger class sizes.)

It is about when. That easy. The time is now. Don’t wait for April 2. Now! Make a list of people who love you who will listen to your story. Get in touch. Call your elected leaders. Encourage your administration to have courage and get involved. (Or thank them if they are already.)

We are teachers!!! We have incredible skills as a community. We can make and edit videos. We can do graphic design. We can write and arrange music. We can plan a presentation. We can teach. We can do PR. Always be teaching everyone about what is going on in schools and how things have changed. Jump in whenever you encounter. a teaching moment. Figure out what you can do and go. Most of the public has no idea what we really do. You can teach them.

It is obvious that a lot of teachers are angry.  Teachers are not naturally angry. The are in a caring profession that only works if you love both your subject and the students you teach.   They are angry because it is a hard job that consumes your waking hours.  Other people need to do their jobs.  Specifically, those elected officials who represent us need to pay attention to what we do and do their job so we can keep doing ours.  When teachers have to pull time and energy away from teaching to be ignored or even insulted and belittled for advocating for an outstanding education system that well benefit the public good of our state…When they have to do that instead of teaching IT MAKE THEM VERY ANGRY.  Anger is an emotion.  But it is only logical that they are angry.  They have tried being nice on into the night and now are mistaken by many politicians for doormats.  Those of you who belittle teachers because they are angry:  Where were you when they were calmly sounding the alarm?  No offense, but you should just shut up until you have time to talk  to someone who actually does school about what is going wrong.

We know why we march on. We know what we are fighting for. We will either win or learn how to win. And then we will win. We will press on towards the mark.

Brothers and sisters, the time for doubt and worry is past. We must be strong. We must lift each other up. We must praise victories and forgive mistakes. We must teach the people of this state what we do and why it is worth their support.

I have so much faith the the ability of teachers to do all this. Teachers work miracles all the time. We just have to take all that to OKC. Starting now. This is going to be one of those really long assignments. Time to get going.


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