I’ve been thinking a lot about this being “Teacher Appreciation Week” as my 38th year in the classroom draws near to its close. Such pondering has caused me to wonder about the state of my chosen profession at a time when so many well-intentioned but misguided parents, politicians, and special interest groups are trying to tell me what books I can read and what topics I can discuss with my students. Many of these same parents, who seem so eager to tell teachers what to teach, are simultaneously outraged by the notion of being told how to parent by a teacher even when it is obvious that many of their child’s classroom challenges begin at home.
All of which has led me to questioning whether it should be called “Teacher Depreciation Week” instead. The coffee, cookies, and cards that we receive during this week of appreciation are nice, but I’d rather be thanked by your trust that I want what is best for our children’s education and maturation as much as you do. Otherwise, I would have been a busy-ness major.
As anyone who has ever purchased a car knows, depreciation is the decrease in value of an asset over time. In the case of a new car, that time is however long it takes you to exit the dealership onto the road. The depreciation of the teaching profession in America has taken a bit longer, but a good car is much easier to replace than a good teacher. And, if we are willing to be honest, the raw materials our colleges of education are being supplied with (meaning students) are not among our “best and brightest,” who, for many of the reasons I list below, are pursuing careers outside of the teaching profession, which contributes to its depreciation.
Teaching is what it is. No one enters the profession clueless of its demands or expecting anything approaching fortune or public acclaim. If they did, they weren’t paying enough attention when they were students. The drawbacks of the teaching vocation have been frequently enumerated. Legitimate teacher complaints consistently on the list include insufficient pay, long hours spent on school work outside of the school day, personal money spent on needed classroom materials, the necessity of secondary employment to make ends meet, the lack of administrative and parental support, the low societal prestige afforded to the profession, etc. One teacher concern only recently added to the list is also the most grievous: school shootings.
Despite the legitimacy of all of the aforementioned complaints, I have rarely given voice or pen to them. For me, the tipping point is reached and this blog is written when folk who are not experts in education or in the disciplines in which licensed teachers are no longer trust my professionality, my ethics, and my ability to properly decide what is age and subject appropriate for the students whom I’ve been assigned to instruct and with whom I have been entrusted. The intrusion into my classroom and lesson planning becomes especially obnoxious when those interloping have an obvious political or religious agenda that is driving their interest and intrusion. They have every right to their beliefs and values, but they do not have the right to force them upon students and teachers in public schools. Instead, they should enter their children into likeminded private schools or take on the burden of homeschooling their children themselves.
As a teacher of literature, my job is to choose appropriate texts of great literary, social, and cultural value and to accurately represent the authors and themes of those texts without avoiding or whitewashing historical truths. My goal is NEVER to tell my students how to think about these themes and truths but to encourage them TO THINK and to draw their own conclusions.
Don’t get me wrong. I totally appreciate the appreciation, but if anyone really wants to have empathy – which is far more valuable than gratitude – for what I do, come to my room and see how good you are at engaging 25 teenagers for 50 minutes with nothing more than a Shakespearean sonnet written over 400 years ago in a style of language nothing like their own, all the while keeping them off of the mini-computer (cell phone) buzzing with notifications in their pockets. Then do it 5 more times that day.
Now that’s something I’d appreciate.
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One thought on “Teacher DEpreciation Week.”
Thank you, Ty! I’m grateful for teachers like you! I learn so much from you and your wisdom
div>Beth Tavolacci Alseth
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