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Friday, May 8, 2015

In Defence of the Classroom Teacher

I am going to attempt the impossible.   I am going to try and write some meaningful prose on something positive about teachers.   Positivity about the teaching is severely lacking in the rhetoric surrounding labour action and education.  I am going to try and do it without undermining anything in education. So,  there will be nothing inflammatory about the government, education minister, boards of education and the union.   Maybe I should stop right now, or leave the rest of the page blank and have it be the ironic joke?   Or, you know, I can attempt to say something positive about something without resorting to cheap rhetoric.   Lets try that and see where it takes us. 

The sad thing is that there is not too much positive press in the media today.    Right now a lot of teachers or people in education are sharing a wonderful essay written by CBC News Anchor Peter Mansbridge in support of teachers.  While the essay is beautifully crafted and filled with a plethora of positivity, it was also written back in 2013.  Do teachers really have to find an article from two years ago to use as one of their rallying points?  

I'd say that teacher articles whether they are from the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, National Post or the Toronto Sun for the most part are very critical of teachers and the teaching profession.  I particularly love the ones that spend 3/4 of the article criticizing the profession and then have a disingenuous line saying that most of the teachers they know are wonderful.  You know what?  The throwaway line is not enough to erase the previous part of the article where you essentially tore the profession a new one.  Comment sections run about 80% negative, on average, with the only positive, supportive ones coming from teachers with the odd parent thrown in there.   

I am not going to get into stuff like the hardworking teacher burning the candle at both ends and marking/evaluating late into the night, because I know a lot of people do jobs that require them to work long hours, so no pity parties here!  I've said before and I will say it again, those teachers who start the conversation with their own personal itinerary of their long day only serve themselves and really want to promote themselves.  I look at teachers as people who should quietly go about their business without a lot of fanfare of credit whether it is running a club, field trip, charity event, sports team, school dance etc.    No credit needed.  The satisfaction of making the school a better place and community should be enough.  There are a ton of teachers, by the way, who do this.    

Here is the deal, and here has what has been lost when it comes to education.   Like many of  those in other professions, we get up in the morning with our family and get them ready for the day, be it at school or work.  We eat our breakfast, drive to our workplace, prepare for our day, be the best we can be for that day, and then go home at the end of the day.  We get our kids ready for soccer, hockey, baseball games, dance lessons, swim lessons.  We cheer them on, or we help coach the team.  We kiss our kids or our spouses, or our pets goodnight and we get ready to do it all again the next day.  Sound familiar?  That pretty well covers a lot of people's work day.  Really, teachers are no different from any other profession when it comes down to it.   We also have social circles, engage in social media and read the newspapers, and watch the TV.   We get hurt by the constant negativity and bashing of the profession.  We get frustrated by what is simply untrue,  We get frustrated when people underestimate the profession.  We look in dismay as much of this goes undefended, including by those who should be defending us.   Right now there are those in our profession who are standing on the picket lines, and I feel terrible that they are out there taking the slings and arrows for the rest of us.  I hope that people are giving you support, and that you stay strong.  

I think that there are a couple of reasons for the negativity of some towards teachers.   Everyone went to school, and everyone had THAT teacher , the one who was not up to the challenge, did not seem to care about the students and seem to hit the back door when the bell goes.  That one teacher gets personified and blown to represent the whole system. I get it and I will never forget Ms Petaharych for throwing away my admittedly crude clay pot into the garbage in front of the whole class when I was in Grade 7.   That was over 30 years ago and I will never, ever forget it.   That , however, does not mean that all my teachers were like this vile woman.  Teaching is like all professions in that there are always those who do not carry the load or work to their full capability.  That is not an indictment of the profession, that's life!  Look at your own personal work place.  You know who is, or who is not pulling their weight.  Sure you do.  Doesn't mean your whole workplace is painted with the brush of this person though.   

The second reason for teacher bashing, negativity is the mass media.  I cannot think of too many movies, television shows that picture the profession in a positive light.   Was it Pink Floyd's "Brick in the Wall" that started this? (Great, great song by the way).   Remember Degrassi Jr High/Degrassi High?   Teachers were portrayed ok, but certainly not great.  Didn't take long for the creepy fondling supply teacher who take the forefront in a major storyline.  How about Boston Public?   The show that was supposed to celebrate the teaching profession.  Story lines included the teacher sleeping with the student, a racist teacher who should have retired, a teacher with mental illness and on, and on.  Celebrating the profession?  Hardily.   Saved by the Bell?   Next!  90210?   More allegations of teacher/student relationships and an attempt to portray a "cool teacher" (He had a beard, and was young, so he must have been cool).   Mr D?   A parody/send up of the profession.  Glee?   Oh brother. Has it really come to this?    Sure there was the odd Mr Hollands Opus, but for the most stereotypical views of the profession have been portrayed.   

In the end, there are a lot of people doing a lot of good work, who do not want to promote their own agenda and how much they do to keep the students engaged inside and outside of the classroom.   Overall, we are just like you.   Think about that the next time you have a large social gathering, or even Facebook conversation.     I do not criticize your profession. I do not bash small business owners, customer service, accountants, lawyers etc.  Please do not criticise my profession.  I am proud to be a teacher, and should not have to flinch or brace myself every time I say that I am one.    

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