by Jennifer L. Gadd
By now you’ve all probably seen the recent video clip in which actor Matt Damon takes a reason.tv cameraman to task at the Save Our Schools Rally. In the clip, the interviewer sets forth the notion that job security keeps educators from wanting to be good teachers.
That reporter should’ve talked to the teachers in my building. She could’ve found them up at school the week before their contracts started. They were, on their own time, arranging classrooms for the new school year with supplies purchased with their own money. Many of their family members came with them, volunteering time and energy to make sure classrooms are welcoming, pleasant environments in which children can learn.
Oh, and she needn’t have come to my school particularly. She could’ve stopped in at almost any school in the nation, and she’d have seen the same thing. As Mr. Damon pointed out, teachers teach because they want to teach, because it’s their passion. Still, the anti-teacher mythos prevalent in today’s media — part of the growing trend toward anti-intellectualism — tells a false tale.
What I see are teachers who work endless hours, not the 8-3 shift people assume they work. I see teachers who spend their summers taking graduate-level classes to increase their effectiveness and skill or planning for the upcoming year. This is not the part-time, nine-month job being bandied about by anti-union pundits.
I see teachers who are ground to a fine powder every year by unrealistic and underfunded governmental mandates and lock-step curricula, yet who continue tirelessly to reach and teach every student. I see teachers demoralized by a brutal and relentless standardized testing schedule that leaves little time for actual teaching and makes students value their own education less and less every year, yet who continue to reach deeply and desperately inside themselves to find that spark that ignites genuine learning and to share it with students.
Right now in this country, it seems that everybody you meet — up to and including Bill Gates, his dog, and smart-mouthed reason.tv cameramen — is an education expert. I’d like to issue an invitation for them to come to a school and show us how to do it. Your assignment could be a classroom with 33 students and only 25 desks. There could be at least three students with physical disabilities. And fifteen with cognitive challenges. And seven with primary languages other than English.
Besides the social studies curriculum, you should also have them reading at grade level by the end of the year, and they all need to be proficient in both math and reading on the high-stakes AYP test in April. Easy, right?
Yeah, Mr. Expert, they’re gonna eat your lunch for you. Have fun with that. And while you’re at it, you might change the bulletin board in the hallway. You can do it after school, on your own time, with no overtime.
Jennifer L. Gadd is a Highly Qualified Teacher in the state of Kansas. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Texas Lutheran University and a Master of Divinity degree from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. She is licensed to teach English, Social Studies, and English as a Second Language. She is in her eleventh year of teaching middle school in a local school district. She is passionate about public education.
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