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Dear Parents,

You do not respect my profession. Full stop.

Which is why, in all likelihood, you are going to lose me – a passionate, extremely talented and effective teacher of 10 years.

Why do I say this? It would be folly (and self-indulgent) to chronicle all the slights and abuses I've absorbed at your expense. However, perhaps an anecdote from today will suffice.

Today, at parent-teacher conferences, I slid your daughter's portfolio across the table and explained, in measured tones, that her proficiency in several core areas were slipping, that in order to best help her we would be enlisting the assistance of the support team to develop an optimal learning plan.

You scoffed. Slid the folder back and said, "She did fine in the past. Maybe you're the problem?"

"Excuse me?" I responded.

"Her teachers said she did fine last year is all I'm saying. And anyway, why are you using that new curriculum? It's ridiculous."

I held my tongue, explained the data-driven research supporting our choice of curricula, its brain-based approach. Explained how we would help your child as you grimaced, sighed and waved me off with a flick of your wrist.  

You do not respect my intellect because I professionally reside in a world teeming with your children, a world which must definitionally require less brainpower given my audience.

You do not respect my training because, well, what kind of sophisticated training must one attain to sit in a room all day with your pre-teens?

You do not respect the complexity of pedagogic pursuits. You do not respect the fact that I must focus on the differentiated, individualized needs of 20 students while simultaneously managing the pace and structure of a collective entity.

You do not respect that I must not only perform this intensive juggling act, but that I must do it flawlessly for your children to succeed: that I must not only break down complex thoughts into digestible nuggets, but into digestible nuggets for which your children hunger. Nuggets your children want to devour, hands raised, jumping out of their seats, yelling, "Oooh, oooh, I know! I know!"

The sad part is that, if you knew of my multiple advanced degrees, if you knew of my professional experience teaching at the university level, if you knew I was also a published writer with a forthcoming book, you'd respond to me differently. You'd view me as a more valuable entity.

And you'd be a fool for doing so.

There are thousands like me who, even in this difficult economic climate, have one foot out the door, who have other opportunities, who have remained in teaching for one reason: it is a calling.

But even a calling cannot be sustained when those who I serve reject the pursuit itself as a low-level, necessary but wholly simplistic cog in society's ever-churning engine.

Yesterday, I read Pearson's global report on the best educational systems in the world, ranked by such factors as graduation rates, international test scores and the percentage of students who seek higher education.

Finland, South Korea and Hong Kong ranked among the top systems in the world. And while these systems share many pedagogic qualities not normatively seen in America, one correlative factor stood out: all these societies place great prestige on the profession of teaching.

As Pearson notes from its findings, a societal respect for teachers is one of the most important factors in building an elite educational system:

Respect teachers: Good teachers are essential to high-quality education. Finding and retaining them is not necessarily a question of high pay. Instead, teachers need to be treated as the valuable professionals they are, not as technicians in a huge, educational machine.

You have never stepped into my classroom. You have never seen me inspire your child to analyze a narrative with such enthusiasm that he begs to stay inside during recess to finish his task, a request I will always deny.

You have never seen me negotiate the emotional terrain of bullying, navigate the ethical quandaries that permeate children's social networks, soothe the tears that well when your child fails.

And if you continue to devalue my contributions to your child's intellectual and social growth, you will never see me again.


Originally posted to Writing by David Harris Gershon on Wed Nov 28, 2012 at 04:07 PM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions.

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Comment Preferences

  •  By the way, I teach 4th, 5th and 8th grades, (44+ / 0-)

    for what that's worth.

    Also, I apologize for the rant. I don't think I've written one in over two years here at Daily Kos.

    I'm "THE" Troubadour," and not "Troubadour" without the article. We're different people here at DK :)

    by David Harris Gershon on Wed Nov 28, 2012 at 04:06:59 PM PST

  •  You teach middle school? My goodness, I cannot (14+ / 0-)

    herd even a few of those kids; anyone who can handle a whole classroom has my admiration.

    Teaching is really hard!

    ...Son, those Elephants always look out for themselves. If you happen to get a crumb or two from their policies, it's a complete coincidence. -Malharden's Dad

    by slowbutsure on Wed Nov 28, 2012 at 04:19:30 PM PST

  •  Something like half of all new teachers (16+ / 0-)

    leave the profession within five years, in good part because of the lack of appreciation and unbearable pressures that you describe.  I was one of them.  But when they are driving out veterans as well, there's a serious problem.  

    I scrutinized the subset of veteran teachers who seemed still  inspired and effective.   What I saw in them that I didn't think I could ever match was toughness.  A hide like a rhinocerous.  A completely self-motivated ability to do what they were gonna do because of their own reasons for doing it, regardless of praise or criticism from kids, parents, and administrators.  One of them told me I'd better get out if I needed pats on the head to keep going .  And I DO need those pats, so I did get out.  

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Wed Nov 28, 2012 at 04:20:16 PM PST

  •  Psst -- "You're going to lose me." (6+ / 0-)

    Respect for teachers is definitely a part of a healthy educational system.  We should respect our teachers, and evince that respect in payment and other ways.

    On the other hand, some curricula have been set not by teachers with an understanding of children and how they learn, but by administrators and legislators imposing ridiculous standards.  (I know this because I've read teachers' blogs about it.)  So I don't blame any parent for having some skepticism.

    I know parents who have maintained somewhat skeptical and/or confrontational approaches with their children's teachers.  Often, this has been in the best interests of the child.  And sometimes, teachers do not know best.  (e.g., a teacher who thought a child was "almost ready to read" when the child was reading... chapter books.)  And, unfortunately, it is the parents who go along with whatever their children's teachers say who let their kids be leveled out of advanced classes, or be treated disrespectfully or cruelly.

    I am sure none of this applies to you.  But my attitude towards the educational profession is the same as it is towards the medical profession: one must make a pain in the butt of oneself sometimes in order to get safety and results.

    © cai Visit 350.org to join the fight against global warming.

    by cai on Wed Nov 28, 2012 at 04:23:18 PM PST

    •  *sometimes make a pain of oneself. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      slowbutsure, elwior, Linda Wood

      Not always.

      © cai Visit 350.org to join the fight against global warming.

      by cai on Wed Nov 28, 2012 at 04:27:17 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  In my experience (5+ / 0-)

      teachers are on the right side of the argument a lot more often than the parents.

    •  My DH teaches high school, (5+ / 0-)

      and I can tell you that the parents who are pushy, pissy and disrespectful do not get the safety and results they're looking for. They get what they ask for--and it's rarely good for their student. "I demand that you switch my child into the afternoon class" or "Are you saying my child isn't smart enough for algebra II?" or "His problem is he's not being challenged in your class" are typical examples.

      When in reality, the teacher deliberately placed the student in the morning class because it was better suited to the student's learning needs; and while this child is certainly smart enough for algebra II she's not academically prepared for it yet; and the reason he's not challenged in class is because he has yet to challenge himself to do a homework assignment all the way to completion. These are things you can tell a parent, but you can't make them listen or understand if they don't want to. Some don't.

      Teachers have generally thought and planned carefully what would be good for students, including students with pushy parents. Since the parents push and push, they sooner or later get what they've asked for. Their child suffers for it, and then the parents show up again, blaming and criticizing the school. Sometimes for the very thing they pushed so hard for earlier.

      Fortunately these only comprise some of the parents. Most of the parents at my DH's school come with a "team effort" attitude, as do the teachers, and painful realities can be discussed and effectively dealt with, as well as plenty of praise, props and kudos for the great stuff the student is doing.

      I'm the spouse, not even the teacher myself, and it's immensely frustrating to me at times. I don't know how my husband does it. He seriously, seriously deserves respect.

      I'm amazed by people's courage and kindness in the face of everything and life.

      by LaraJones on Wed Nov 28, 2012 at 07:02:33 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Re: the Pearson's Global report: (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lgmcp, elwior, Lonely Texan

    Do all these countries test all their children?  Or just some of them?  Finland makes sure they do not have poor children, but about 25% of children in the US are poor.  Hard to do well on tests if you are hungry or homeless or are babysitting your siblings all the time.  We test our Special Education students.  Hard to test well if you are developmentally disabled.

    ...Son, those Elephants always look out for themselves. If you happen to get a crumb or two from their policies, it's a complete coincidence. -Malharden's Dad

    by slowbutsure on Wed Nov 28, 2012 at 04:27:05 PM PST

  •  Wow... Seriously? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    buddabelly, Mets102, slowbutsure

    I coach kids in High School and even have been a newspapers "Coach of the Year" for my sport in a populous area.

    You know... I would NEVER demand, or expect anyone to EVER have to say "Thanks". If they do, that's great but, I would never, ever, ever, ever... demand that of them or their parents.

    It is extremely unprofessional to do so.

    I have kids now in Third and Fourth grade. I talk with my kids teachers and if they are good I say thanks, if they are not I don't. If you actually demanded that of me my answer sure as hell would have the word "you" in it but it certainly wouldn't have the word "thanks" in front of it.

    Your job is to teach and help children learn and grow. When they do well... That is your thanks.  If you are in your profession for any other reason, you are in the wrong profession. Period.

    "'Touch it dude' - President Barack Obama"

    by volleyboy1 on Wed Nov 28, 2012 at 04:36:49 PM PST

    •  coaching is different that teaching (6+ / 0-)

      I do both. Same sport too.

      As a coach, you don't expect thanks, because at the end of the year, you have a record of achievement. Everybody sees your record, and knows how the season went.

      Teachers have no record at the end of the semester, no proof that they got through to anyone and achieved their goals, unless a student or a parent tells them.

      A thank you is huge. It's not why I teach, but I understand how much it means.

      “Well, hey, listen, we’ve never been “stay the course,” George Bush, 10/22/06. “We will stay the course.” George Bush, 8/30/06, 8/4/05, 4/13/04, 4/16/04, 4/5/04, 12/15/03.

      by coachster on Wed Nov 28, 2012 at 05:06:46 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Coach.. Glad there is another vball coach at DKos (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Linda Wood

        That said... and you should know this... Record doesn't mean a damn thing and in the end Winning doesn't either. I had a very successful career coaching (Six straight league titles, Two Section Championships, Two Section Runner ups, a Nor Cal Championship and a Nor Cal Runner up) and now my club has a good rep. That said... I never had complete buy-in until my second to last season. By Record, I kicked ass, and as a coach I feel I was overall successful BUT, not everyone would say I was a great coach. Some did, others couldn't stand me. And honestly, that was ok. I didn't like every kid I coached either.

        I completely disagree with this:

        Teachers have no record at the end of the semester, no proof that they got through to anyone and achieved their goals, unless a student or a parent tells them
        Teachers DO have a "record" at the end of the semester. A good teacher can see how well his/her students did throughout the year. They can tell if a kid is learning or has buy-in. Go beyond the analytical standards. YOU KNOW if you successfully taught someone.

        Example: When I coached my teams a lot of girls would come back after graduation to play open gym, get work-outs in with the new team. Those that stayed playing... those were success stories. Those that stayed around to help coach... THAT was a win. The record only matters for a little bit. Changing a kids life for the positive... that is what we do. And we know when we do it well.

        A "Thank You" is great because it is voluntary. Telling someone they should say "Thank You" is sad. People will do it if they feel it justified.

        "'Touch it dude' - President Barack Obama"

        by volleyboy1 on Wed Nov 28, 2012 at 10:16:23 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  You took it literally. (3+ / 0-)

      He's talking about respect, not a literal "thank you" after everything he does. There's a difference.

      I'm amazed by people's courage and kindness in the face of everything and life.

      by LaraJones on Wed Nov 28, 2012 at 06:49:33 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Respecting Teachers is important (0+ / 0-)

        However, asking for Thank You's.... nah...

        I get that he is pissed because some parent put blame on him after he worked hard, but, you know what... That is just the way things roll sometimes.

        Respect and gratitude are two very different things. I think he is asking for "gratitude" and I believe he shouldn't have to ask for respect.

        "'Touch it dude' - President Barack Obama"

        by volleyboy1 on Wed Nov 28, 2012 at 10:07:42 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  ugh (10+ / 0-)

    your frustration is merited.

    my mom was a public school teacher for 30+ years. "tough gig" and "under-appreciated" fail to scratch the surface of the matter.

    i remain deeply grateful for the many fine (public school) teachers in whose classrooms it was my very good fortune to have been placed.

    hang in there / illegitimi non carborundum

    "everybody's got something to hide except for me and my monkey." -john lennon

    by homo neurotic on Wed Nov 28, 2012 at 04:37:42 PM PST

  •  I hear you (8+ / 0-)

    I have 37 students this year, in a mixed age classroom of both fourth and fifth grade.  Perhaps I should say "classrooms," because I have so many children we had to have an overflow room.

    It is a block away.

    So I am teaching 37 children in two classrooms a block apart.  I was supposed to have a co-teacher, but ended up with a student teacher, who fulfills more of an aide role.

    I have 15% special ed students this year.  They need more of me- as do all my students.

    I can't keep up.

  •  I would just appreciate it if we could all (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pdxteacher

    be honest about what we want. Do we want our kids babysat? You know, kept sort of busy and returned relatively clean and safe at the end of the day? No problem!
    Or, do we want our kids challenged, pushed to grow, held to high expectations and exposed to a rigorous curriculum which might not always be fun and in which they will definitely not always get A's? Oh, and returned relatively clean and safe at the end of the day? That's not really a problem either but WE CAN'T DO BOTH!
    If parents could just be honest about which they want we would all be happier.

  •  Unfortunately (0+ / 0-)

    Most of their parents were educated in the US system which has become severely negligent.  I know parents who can't help their grade school children with English and Math, let alone Science.  By the time they are in Jr High or HS?  The parents are lost.

    Its sad.  But remember?  Even without the parents respect, your teaching will make a better generation.  The kids are all that matter!  

    YOU!  MATTER!

    ..the smoker you drink, the player you get....

    by Diane Gee on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 09:42:26 AM PST

  •  Thank you (0+ / 0-)

    This is a scary, scary diary.  

    I can do a lot of things, but I can't teach.  It's a lot harder than most of us can ever realize.

    How many wrongs does it take to make a right?

    by pdknz on Fri Nov 30, 2012 at 09:28:32 AM PST

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