Stop talking badly about teachers, please.

I am sure everyone in the education world–both high school teachers and college professors–read this article by Kenneth Bernstein from The Washington Post “A Warning to College Professors from a High School Teacher” during which a lifelong high school teacher explains, very clearly, what has become of the teaching profession. I found the article spot on. Could not have been said better. Wish I had written it.

One thing that I have faced greatly in this transition from teaching high school to being a college professor, even a community college professor (which is far less respected in the academic world than a 4-year or graduate institution college professor), is a constant stream of criticism about high school teachers. Last spring, when I’d had it up to my eyeballs, I wrote this post, “Stop Hating, Start Teaching.” But it seems individuals’ ability to put down teachers is infinite.

Kenneth Bernstein makes a plea in his article, it says:

Please do not blame those of us in public schools for how unprepared for higher education the students arriving at your institutions are. We have very little say in what is happening to public education. Even the most distinguished and honored among us have trouble getting our voices heard in the discussion about educational policy. The National Teacher of the Year is supposed to be the representative of America’s teachers—if he or she cannot get teachers’ voices included, imagine how difficult it is for the rest of us. That is why, if you have not seen it, I strongly urge you to read 2009 National Teacher of the Year Anthony Mullen’s famous blog post, “Teachers Should Be Seen and Not Heard.” After listening to noneducators bloviate about schools and teaching without once asking for his opinion, he was finally asked what he thought. He offered the following:

Where do I begin? I spent the last thirty minutes listening to a group of arrogant and condescending noneducators disrespect my colleagues and profession. I listened to a group of disingenuous people whose own self-interests guide their policies rather than the interests of children. I listened to a cabal of people who sit on national education committees that will have a profound impact on classroom teaching practices. And I heard nothing of value. “I’m thinking about the current health-care debate,” I said. “And I am wondering if I will be asked to sit on a national committee charged with the task of creating a core curriculum of medical procedures to be used in hospital emergency rooms.”

The strange little man cocks his head and, suddenly, the fly on the wall has everyone’s attention.

“I realize that most people would think I am unqualified to sit on such a committee because I am not a doctor, I have never worked in an emergency room, and I have never treated a single patient. So what? Today I have listened to people who are not teachers, have never worked in a classroom, and have never taught a single student tell me how to teach.”

With all this in mind, I have tried my hardest to be a continuous advocate for teachers. I haven’t even been out of the classroom two years, but my time there is seeming further and further away.

Last week, we started our Spring semester at my community college. I was explaining my schedule this term to my students and how I was taking new faculty release time to work on writing so that I could get tenure. Out of the blue, a student stated, “I heard that high school teachers get tenure for just breathing!” and the class erupted into laughter.  “Oh yeah,” I said, “Who told you that?” as I smacked my fist into an open palm. “One of the professors we had today,” he explained. “I”m going to have to go kick some ass!” I joked, somewhat. “No really, who said that?” I asked a few times in class. I guess the students could tell I was irritated, and there were no snitches in that class, I tell you. Not a peep.

However, our students are grouped in Houses and each house has its own set of professors, so after 45 minutes into the lesson, when I gleaned that they had gone over some of the material they were covering, I knew exactly whom they had had in the class before mine–one of my closest colleagues!

So, I went downstairs after class and saw my colleague getting her coat on and joked that I was going to take her out back and beat her up for saying that about teachers. And, much to my surprise, she was HUGELY apologetic. She is a daughter of two teachers and has worked with teachers, and she felt very badly. She even texted me about two hours later apologizing again, and apologized again when I saw her at work next.

Why is it so easy for people to talk shit about teachers? Seriously. She is a reflective, kind, sensitive, smart woman. I felt bad about giving her even a tiny sliver of teacher wrath for her words, but then, after thinking about it for a couple of days, I didn’t feel guilty any more.

Because, honestly, those small, insidious comments–those microaggressions (if you will)–are what is helping kill the teaching profession and teachers. It’s not funny or okay or professional or kind to say things like that regarding a profession that has continuously been under attack. Especially if you have never taught. Especially if you know better.

And, for the record,  I was observed more than the mandatory 6 times per year my first three years of teaching, had one-on-one conferences about my assignments and assessments, and completed mandatory supplementary professional development hours for my tenure. That was a lot more than breathing.

One thought on “Stop talking badly about teachers, please.

  1. obviously like your web site but you need to check the spelling on quite a few of your posts. A number of them are rife with spelling problems and I find it very bothersome to tell the truth nevertheless Ill definitely come back again.

Comments are closed.