Thank the Lord for Congress: Teachers are Looking Pretty Good Right Now

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I would just like to pause to take a moment to be thankful for Congress.  I had been a little down about the public perception of education. I even got chastised by a good friend after sending a link to an education article in which I had some involvement.

“You do know I really could care less about education…here, it’s too politicized.”

I snapped back almost instantly, “Well, you have a very good one so you must have cared at one point.” I inserted a smiley face to cover up the defensive nature of my rebuttal.

Why was I so overly sensitive?

For the last couple years I haven’t been able to open a newspaper or watch the news without seeing some story about the evils of education–about labor disputes, low test scores–how even the little countries most American’s can’t spell on late-night TV show quizzes are beating us in everything from math to basket weaving. When I search for SOME good in the press, many of the reports seem ominous. “Evil teacher did this,” “Union members take kid’s candy at Halloween,” “Satan Declared Number Two Threat Down from #1 Thanks to Teachers.” “Teacher asks for additional box of paper in the middle of worst economy in a century.”

When I started teaching, I really wanted to save the world. I still do. But never in a million years would I guess that we’d get a rap worse than Wall Street or lawyers. LAWYERS!

“Those that can, do. Those that can’t, teach.” I’ve heard that a million times. I’ve read many articles about how teachers do not graduate at the top of their university classes, and there’s just too much darned vacation. I’ve written about this before–that it is my goal to get the teaching profession back to the highest levels of respect, where it should be.

It’s bad enough that everyone wants to turn schools into little barbed wire military camps, presumably to make sure the teachers don’t escape to bask in the glory of summer vacation, but it would be nice for the media to give us better treatment. A little bit of psychological income goes a long way. After all, they were once students, too. But now that the press has Congress to worry about, they’re starting to treat education much better. I truly appreciate that.

I think the news has shown lately that teachers do much more than teach. I’ll never complain about salary (even though I did get a two page memo showing how some of my paycheck jumped the fiscal cliff yesterday), and I’m grateful for my benefits.

I am also a small business owner, have worked in Corporate America, and have slung some serious hash (of the edible not illegal variety) in order to pay for my education. Everyone in America is struggling at this time, and every time I go to the doctors and show my insurance card, I am grateful. That’s not the reason I teach, though. I teach in order to make the world a better place. I hope I succeed.

I think schools need some reality shows.  Why is America wasting its time enriching the cast of Jersey Shore, when they could be watching teachers instead–we have all of the intrigue and less of the alcohol–we’re morally sound.

The cameras could show a teacher waking up at 4 to correct papers, working all day, designing classes and running clubs after school, setting aside weekends to plan for the next week, and going to professional development all summer to keep up on all the industry changes, and end with a shot of that teacher searching in vain for a million pencils because for some reason Santa didn’t bring any to any of her students who lose one per day, and the five hundred (s)he scrounged for during the September sales are gone. I’d watch that show.

I’d also watch a school where someone really cool, educationally inspirational, and camera friendly like “Principal El,” goes into a struggling school with Ty Bennington and a bunch of people sponsored by Home Depot, and gives it an extreme makeover, uniting joy, best practices, leadership, and good interior design with educational policy.

Recreating the sphere of education is truly a job for an idealist.  It takes a lot of vision, and is certainly a large, but important, mission. Finding a circle of like-minded innovators is critical in maintaining the energy to complete the mission, because the outside world doesn’t always reinforce that vision. I have connected with other educators and educational leaders  in the Twittersphere that think like me. It’s enabled me to learn daily and take back suggestions to use in my class. Additionally, I remain grateful for my alumni who find me in social media and take a moment to tell me how I have positively impacted their world. The press might not always love me, but my students tell me the truth–good, bad, or indifferent. And I listen.

Today, however, I’m feeling invigorated and ready to change the world once again. Because someone else is taking over my role in the “most hated” category, surpassing even Wall Street. I know that when education became Public Enemy Number One (a product of fear in the economy, alongside honest reflection that it would be great to put American education back on top at all levels), a whole bunch of lawyers breathed a sigh of relief and stopped attending Self-Esteem Anonymous groups.  Teachers can soon do the same, because the United States Congress has usurped our role as number one of the Ten Most Hated Professions in America, and it feels pretty good.

I hope Congress stays number one, even if it raises my taxes more. Even if it means I’ll have to fly to Beijing to pay our debt back to China personally–that’s okay–I’ve been studying my Rosetta Stone for some time now, just in case China calls in our debt and I have to politely greet my new boss in Mandarin.

I am grateful to Congress and the media both. I hope to pay you back by my continued strive for excellence and desire to change the world. I would send you a card, but I have some papers to grade, so for now, let my gratitude suffice.



9 thoughts on “Thank the Lord for Congress: Teachers are Looking Pretty Good Right Now

  1. This is great, Casey! Having spent 35 years in the classroom as a teacher and a few more as a student, I understand what you are saying. When I started teaching in 1971, teaching was a prestigious career and treated as such. I watched it fall and really didn’t understand why. Teachers were not changing, but the perception of teachers was.

    I had a very dear colleague who taught Vocational Agriculture down the hallway from me for a long time. He used to say “Those who can, do; Those who can’t, teach those who can do”.
    We just have to keep our heads up and know that what we are doing is honorable and sincere and for the greater good. It sounds like you have that part down!

    • Thank you. It’s interesting that the perception of vocational agricultural professions is also changing. I come from rural town in Connecticut. I wanted to leave and go to the big city. Now I just want to grow carrots. And teach others to do the same.

    • Thank you. I am always willing to “throw myself under the bus” (bad pun)for a laugh.

      But I did contribute to global warming. After I moved, I couldn’t find my reusable bags. I used some plastic ones. I’ll admit it. I’m not proud.

  2. You’re onto something there with the reality show concept … horrifying bureaucracy, widespread incompetence – Congressional Wives! Mr. Dumbass Goes to Washington! Oh wait, we already have that in the form of the nightly news. One for teachers would work. Slightly less horrifying bureaucracy, mildly less incompetent (you and your wily readership excluded, of course) … it worked for Parking Wars. It can fund our educational system.

    • “Wily,” there’s a word I haven’t used in my active vocabulary for a good long while. I commit to saying it eight times today. Maybe I’ll even rotate scintillate in as well. It’ll be good as a backup.

      BTW, I deeply apologize for the pot shot at lawyers. But not Wall Street.

  3. I love the reality show idea and have been pondering what that might look like for some time, but privacy laws would get in the way of course, as they should. So, how about a well-written drama with a protagonist that has some real depth and ability? Maybe a few flaws, too, so he/she is real and generates some sympathy? I see a cross of Friday Night Lights and Mad Men with a little Dead Poets Society chucked in for good measure. The protagonist cannot be a lazy dolt and the school leaders cannot be shallow and and and …

    We’ve had cop shows and hospital shows and firefighter shows and even lawyer that entertained while doing credit to those vocations. Yes, its time for really good teacher show. If someone can pull this off they would have the gratitude of educators everywhere. It can be done.

    • I would love to but I’m not the best actor. I have no shame, though, I’d do it anyway. I bet we can come up with someone who can write a screenplay. I want it to be based on my hero, and one of two people who made me want to teach–a recycling of Gabe Kotter. Could be female Gabe, too:)

      The second person who made me want to teach was Mr. Brown. He just retired and deserves it. He spent a lot of effort helping me navigate the land mines.

      Privacy issues? Hmmm… how about this. I’ll code name everyone “Steve” and we can pan in on sneakers. Will that work?

  4. Pingback: 7 Rewards of Teaching « Revolutionary Paideia

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