This week is the annual celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week. Politicians of every stripe and school superintendents everywhere will write letters and make proclamations stating how much they value the service and dedication of teachers everywhere. All of these words are empty and merely paying lip service to something they do not believe. By their actions, these ”leaders” have made it obvious that they neither appreciate, admire, respect nor comprehend the jobs of the people who spend their days with the nation’s children. Nor do they understand the first thing about the children in those classrooms.
On every occasion possible, they talk about incompetent and ineffective teachers as if they are the norm instead of the rare exception. They create policies that tie teachers’ hands, making it more and more difficult for them to be effective. They cut budgets, eliminate classroom positions, overload classrooms, remove supports, choose ineffective and downright useless instructional tools, set up barriers to providing academic assistance, and then very quickly stand up and point fingers at teachers, blaming them for every failure of American society, and washing their own hands of any blame.
They make children endure things they would never allow for themselves: nine hours of testing over two weeks, with no breaks during each session for children as young as 8; reading tests for English as a Second Language students who have only been in the United States for one year; math tests for those same ESL students, eligible as soon as they set foot in the school; testing for children with severe learning and physical challenges. And when the scores for these children are not at the top, it’s the teachers’ fault.
We are taught as teachers to value the individual, that each child learns at his/her own pace, that we should vary instruction and testing to accommodate all learning styles, that all children have differing talents and all are equally valuable. But our ”leaders” think of children as parts on an assembly line. If we plug in A, and tighten screw B, all will be well, and every child will be a carbon copy of the other — on the same date all children of the same age will get the same score on the same test.
Well, folks, education is not a product, it’s a process; a school is not a factory. Children are not identical machine parts, but complex human beings coming to school with a whole variety of baggage, both good and bad. So, stop blaming the teachers and setting up roadblocks to keep us from doing what needs to be done. And keep your empty words to yourself. Your actions have already shown us what you really think.
Corinne Driscoll lives in Syracuse.