My son’s last day of first grade is on Thursday. This will be my last post until June, because we’re taking the week off to travel and celebrate family and summer and a very successful school year.
Because he is my son, he requested to go to Central High School in Little Rock to launch his summer. Because he has siblings not quite as politically-inclined, we’ll also dig for diamonds and eat some ice cream.
Before we leave, though, we’ll hand out gifts to his teachers, including his truly phenomenal classroom teacher, whose patience and kindness and enthusiasm and creative energy transformed his public school into a place that could accommodate his love of the Civil War and fascination with germ theory, all while helping him build friendships with other 6-year-olds.
The real present, though, that I commit to giving to every excellent public school educator with whom I ever come into contact:
I will stand up for you. Always.
I’m sure that Sam’s teachers will appreciate the handmade tokens he’ll give them, and probably our gift certificates, too. But what they really deserve is to know that their contributions won’t go unnoticed, that their roles will never be degraded, and that we will live (and vote) our belief in what they do for our children, every day.
Because, the thing is, I’ve never met anyone, not even the most anti-public educator politician, who doesn’t have something good to say about a given teacher in his/her life. It’s like we somehow convince ourselves that it’s the other public schools that are wasteful, or substandard, or uncaring, as though ours was some magical exception to the rule.
We are silent when legislatures propose laws that would prohibit teachers from lobbying or restrict the science they can teach in the classroom. We don’t show up at town halls where teachers are bashed as greedy tenure seekers. We fidget instead of fight when public education–and not our failure to support it–is blamed for poor educational outcomes. We may even forward those emails with the rumors about all the money diverted away from classrooms, and how that’s evidence that school budgets should be cut.
We focus narrowly on what we can do to show appreciation to our own teachers, with brownies baked and coffee mugs purchased, instead of circling around them in a protective sphere of advocacy, showing our thanks by standing in solidarity.
Our teachers, and the children whose lives they touch daily, deserve more than certificates of appreciation, and even more than free massages.
They deserve professional respect, a competitive salary, a secure retirement.
They deserve to be thanked not just at the end of each school year, but every time we go to the ballot box, every time we have a chance to speak out instead of remain silent, and every time we let our policymakers know that representing us means taking care of those who take care of our future.
Thank you, Mrs. P.
I’ll thank you always.