You’ve heard many of them before, those statements about teachers and public schools that are said to be true but are just plain wrong. In their book, “50 Myths and Lies That Threaten America’s Public Schools,” authors David C. Berliner and Gene V. Glass addressed many of them, including:
* Teachers are the most important influence in a child’s education.
* Merit pay is a good way to increase the performance of teachers.
* Subject matter knowledge is the most important asset a teacher can possess.
* Teachers are well paid.
* Subject matter is the most important asset a teacher can possess.
You have also no doubt heard that teachers have it easy because they have summers off, and can go home in mid-afternoon when their students leave, and that they can get tenure and therefore are protected from ever being fired.
Myths, all of them. And here’s some new ones, offered by Alice Trosclair, who has been teaching for nine years in south Louisiana. She currently teaches American literature, English Language and Composition (AP), and English Literature and Composition (AP). She lives with her husband and son, and has what she calls hundreds of “adopted” children — her students. A version of this was first published in The Educator’s Room, and I am republishing it with permission.
By Alice Trosclair
“Stop being such a martyr.”
“All these teachers do is whine about how bad they have it.”
“It is your choice to put so many hours in. No one is forcing you to do all this.”
And my favorite, “You knew what you were getting into.”
Whether you want to admit it, society as we know it would fall apart without teachers. This a response to some of the comments that have been made on articles I have written or that I have heard over the past year.
*Stop being such a martyr.
I don’t consider myself a martyr, but I would die for my students, and I know any educator would. Some have. I would throw myself in front of my kids to protect them from a bullet or tornado. I think that entitles society to at least listen to what educators have to say. Someone who is willing to risk their lives for child deserves to be heard.
You may not agree with what we have to say, but you should at least listen with respect. We love education, and we love our students. And we are willing to put everything on the line for them, even for the students that don’t want me to or the people who are rude and disrespectful to our profession.
Yes, we would risk our life for your child too.
*Whining about how bad we have it.
Please. Whining and exposing the reality of a field are two different things. Whining is just complaining and not doing anything to solve the problem. Teachers are not just complaining. We go to in-services, training, and spend hours researching new ways to teach a concept your child did not understand. We meet with parents, we go back to school to get better at what we do, and we march to show (among other things) that there are only 20 textbooks for 100 kids to share.
We are not whining. We want the best for our students. If we don’t write, speak, and protest for our kids, would anyone see what our students need? We spend our own money to give our students basic materials that parents, the district, the state or even the federal government won’t provide.
So, yes, some of us will loudly discuss and openly write about problems facing our students and schools to try to catch the ear of people who can do something to fix them.
*No one is forcing you to put in all those hours.
Technically, no. But I am thankful for the doctor who stops to help those in a car accident. Are they on the clock? No. But I am thankful they stopped to save lives. If we see a child is not performing well in our class, of course, we are going to go home and see if we can find something to help him or her.
There is simply not enough time in the day for us to do all this extra work at school. For example, If we only wrote recommendation letters to get your child a scholarship while we were at school, they would not have one. If your child needs tutoring to make up a test, or wants advice about something going on in their lives, do you want us just to walk out and say, “Oh, I’m sorry, it’s three o’clock. I can’t do that?”
If you are one of those people who think that we can just leave our job at the door, I want you to think about your child, grandchild, niece, nephew, or some other child in your life. Do you think that child deserves all the time and energy in the world to help him reach his or her potential? We think so too.
And frankly, eight hours just isn’t enough time to help foster the kind of growth in a child. Not every child is lucky enough to have a parent that reads to them or can afford a tutor, or afford to pay for an after school sport or club. Schools provide these things. And we give our time to nurture those kids.
Yes, it is a choice, but it is the right choice.
*You knew what you were getting into when you took the job.
Yes, we did. We have the best job in the world. It’s not all peaches and cream, but it is one of the careers that gives back and impacts the world.
There are days when we are exhausted, and unless you are a teacher, you probably can’t quite understand just how had our job really is. We knew we would give up a chunk of our paycheck to those kids. We knew that we would spend summers writing curriculum, going to classes, and in-services. We knew that hours would be long and we would be expected to tutor students and sponsor clubs. Yes, we knew all this.
What we didn’t know is that we would constantly be attacked for doing what we love. That we would be criticized for speaking our mind about things that need to change for the betterment of our kids. That we would be unfairly evaluated. We didn’t know that we would be called selfish for asking for a living wage. We didn’t know that being a teacher meant we would be watched and questioned by those who have never set foot in a classroom.
What I do know is that we work our hardest every single day for our students. I know we would lay down our life for those kids. We knew that some time would be taken away from our families for this career.
Teaching is not for the faint of heart. No matter what we do, there will always be those that question and criticize. But we keep trying to reach young men and women and hope they know the miracles we try to work and the lengths we will go to make things better for them. We can only hope they will carry the memories of what we did for them and make society see that education is the foundation of society and those laying the foundation deserve respect.