If This Is Teacher Appreciation, I’m Glad It Is Only a Week

Talk back, speak up, be heard.

Bill Ayers, To Teach.

This is not the time for the teacher of any language to follow the line of least resistance, to teach without the fullest possible knowledge of the implications of his medium.

LaBrant, L. (1947, January). Research in languageElementary English, 24(1), 86-94.

The first full week in May 2014 is a swift punch in the gut of teachers across the U.S. since the week is both Teacher Appreciation Week and National Charter School Week.

Not since Waiting for “Superman” have teacher bashing and “miracle school” mania had such a distorted coexistence.

Here in my home state of South Carolina, we are witnessing a steady stream of Op-Eds written by teachers calling for VAM and an end to seniority in the dismissal of teachers. Yes, written by teachers. We also have a steady dose of Op-Eds about the plight upon our schools that threatens the very existence of humanity: “bad” teachers. [1]

So as I watch teaching and teachers being bashed, I am glad Teacher Appreciation Week lasts only a week; teachers and our profession have had enough in this time of devaluing teachers in the era of value-added.

The ugly truth is that all across the U.S. people genuinely do not appreciate teachers, and more broadly, people do not appreciate workers.

This makes no sense, of course, because almost all of us in this country are workers, but what are you going to do?

Way back in 2003, I wrote a piece for English Journal, “A Call to Action.”

The piece focuses on two teachers: my high school English teacher, Lynn Harrill, and the focus of my doctoral dissertation, Lou LaBrant. In the piece I conclude:

Each act I do as a person, as a teacher, as a writer is with Lynn Harrill and Lou LaBrant in mind. Everything I have learned about being an English teacher reminds me that each child, each student, is the reason we teach English. I write this not to complain, not to lament, but to call all of us to action. And I make this call in the names of Lynn Harrill and Lou LaBrant—the educator’s educators, who know and knew that this job we do is the most personal of endeavors because language is the essence of us as humans, and it is the only road to human dignity and individual voice.

So I say, teachers, we are mostly not appreciated; in fact, we are scorned. But we share a paradox as members of the scorned workers of the U.S. and as some of the most important people in the lives of our students (who often do appreciate us as individual people even as they express a lack of appreciation for “teachers” or “teaching”).

And here in 2014 as the education reform movement continues down the wrong path at warp speed, I remain convinced that we as teachers must take action. We must be the brakes that stop the momentum and then offer everyone the opportunity to step off and seek a better way.

Keep in mind that many of our students did not appreciate us at first because confronting what we don’t know and what we misunderstand is hard and uncomfortable. But over time, those initially resistant students came to a place where they could make that discomfort their own—and then they were able to appreciate us.

It is well past time for us to take our patience, our poise, our expertise, and our voices out of the classroom and into the public that, for now, doesn’t appreciate us because they simply do not know what this work is.

Teachers, it is time to teach beyond the walls of our schools.

[1] I am purposefully not hyperlinking to these, although I have in previous blogs. If you doubt my claims here, give google a shot, but I am simply exhausted by the nonsense and am teetering on the edge of not wanting to give these commentaries even one more mention.

8 comments

  1. Pingback: If This Is Teacher Appreciation, I’m Glad It Is Only a Week – @ THE CHALK FACE
  2. Pingback: Educational Policy Information
  3. Thea Wallace

    I remember one Teacher Appreciation Week when I was teaching in the inner city in Atlanta. We were invited to all chip in to a fund to pay for some kind of TAW celebration. I think I was the only one who appreciated the irony.

  4. ohyesjulesdid

    Reblogged this on ohyesjulesdid and commented:
    I agree with author Paul Thomas that teacher bashing–which has seen a dramatic increase in the past few years–is even more prominent during Teacher Appreciation Week. As the spotlight on the profession brightens, so do the attacks from the “Reformers” who wish to do nothing more than privatize the profession for financial gain and to make teachers so fearful for their jobs that academic freedom is nothing but a dream or an ancient memory.

  5. Pingback: Once Again, NAEP? Nope: “states and schools have lied about the rigor of their courses” | the becoming radical

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