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for his New York Times column for Saturday, now available.  It is titled Teaching Me About Teaching, written, well, let me offer his introduction:

Next week is National Teacher Appreciation Week, and, as far as I’m concerned, they don’t get nearly enough.
He knows from up close what teaching is like -  his mother taught for 34 years, retired and then volunteered, and at age 67 got elected to her local school board.  
Education is in her blood.

Through her I saw up close that teaching is one of those jobs you do with the whole of you — trying to break through to a young mind can break your heart. My mother cared about her students like they were her own children. I guess that’s why so many of them dispensed with “Mrs. Blow” and just called her Mama.

That by itself tells you the treat - at least from the standpoint of this teacher - you are in for by reading this terrific column.

Another paragraph about his mother:  

She showed me what a great teacher looked like: proud, exhausted, underpaid and overjoyed. For great teachers, the job is less a career than a calling. You don’t become a teacher to make a world of money. You become a teacher to make a world of difference. But hard work deserves a fair wage.
I will disagree slightly with Blow - I do not think the entire system is broken, although what is happening now is breaking what was not already in trouble.  

But he is correct on the disrespect directed by some at my profession, or as he puts it

A big part of the problem is that teachers have been so maligned in the national debate that it’s hard to attract our best and brightest to see it as a viable and rewarding career choice, even if they have a high aptitude and natural gift for it.
A bit more below the fold.

Blow goes through the economic issues.  As he notes, the high performing nations whose results are used to criticize our public schools support teaching much more - among the things that Blow notes is that we are cutting teaching jobs, putting economic pressure on teacher compensation, and more.

I have been lucky in my 17 years in the classroom.  I have been in three schools, and in each case our parent community values and supports teacher.  On May 8 our PTSA will give us a very nice lunch. We regularly get thank you notes and emails and personal messages (sometimes face to face) from parents, and of greater importance, from our students, current and former -  one who graduated two years ago whom I taught as a sophomore just reached out to me because she heard I was retiring, and wanted to touch base and to thank me  (thanks, Steph!).

I note that Starbucks has a special Starbucks card for teacher appreciation, and they have actively been promoting the idea of supporting teachers.  I know that Starbucks cards are often greatly appreciated -  I am one of almost a dozen teachers that I know of who use our local Starbucks as a place to grade papers, and catch up on emails with parents!

Charles M. Blow has high visibility.  

I am grateful that leading in to Teacher Appreciation Week he has taken the time for this post, which I urge you to read and pass on.

So let me let him have the final words, his final words, after i wish you

Peace.

If we want better educational outcomes, we need to attract better teachers — and work to retain them. A good place to start is with respect and paychecks. And a little social media appreciation once a year wouldn’t hurt either.

So, on Tuesday, I plan to send this message on Twitter: To the teacher who taught me what it means to be a teacher: My mama. Everybody’s mama.

What will you tweet?

Originally posted to teacherken on Fri May 04, 2012 at 07:53 PM PDT.

Also republished by Education Alternatives and Teachers Lounge.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (26+ / 0-)

    "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

    by teacherken on Fri May 04, 2012 at 07:53:03 PM PDT

  •  anyone have a comment? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BeninSC, Lujane, iTeachQ

    be interested in reactions of others to Blow's column

    it's getting a lot of twitter play from people in education

    I will probably have to catch up w/comment from others later

    got to be up early to administer SAT

    a teacher's life is never done  :-)

    "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

    by teacherken on Fri May 04, 2012 at 08:37:06 PM PDT

  •  I can't stand the demonization of teachers coming (6+ / 0-)

    from the right.  They take a huge paycut over what comparably educated people would make in industry (Half of teachers have a Masters) just to teach.  Demonizing them a lazy and greedy is just bizarre.  Throw in putting together lesson plans, continuing education, etc, and the whole "They get the summers off, the lazy bums!" meme kinda falls flat.

    Conservatives attack teachers for being bad teachers (falsely, in most cases), and then cut their pay, reduce job security, reduce their ability to collectively bargain, cut funding for classroom expenses...  In what world would this attract "better" teachers to the profession?  It just makes no sense.

    In my own experience, my former teachers were among the most dedicated, committed, hard working people I've known.  While I have had a couple rather bad ones, and a few mediocre ones (And one fairly good history teacher, who pushed his political ideas a little...  Though not too much, overall), they overwhelmingly been devoted, enthusiastic teachers, who put a lot of work into keeping their students interested and engaged, which is what I think matters, much more than trying to teach the specifics of whatever's on a particular standardized test.

    •  I can't stand it from the left either (6+ / 0-)
      Conservatives attack teachers for being bad teachers (falsely, in most cases), and then cut their pay, reduce job security, reduce their ability to collectively bargain, cut funding for classroom expenses...  In what world would this attract "better" teachers to the profession?  It just makes no sense.
      AMEN!

      But sadly some "liberals" on this site do the same thing. It makes me sick and we have to joust with those fools on most of the education journals on here. Truly sad.

      •  I stay out of their diaries (0+ / 0-)

        because it would piss me off and I don;t want to get banned.

      •  Even worse (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Flying Goat

        People who call out "I am a liberal, and even I hate teachers" really sicken me. The criticism of teachers unions by self-proclaimed liberals (Oprah, and The Chick That Was In The Movie Karate Kid's Husband, I am glaring in your direction) saddens me.
        What's worse, is the view from many who say they are in the left that basically expect teachers to work for free. "Your Union wants a 3% pay raise? Shouldn't that money go towards the students?", "If you are a good teacher, you don't need a union".
        Hell, forget Oprah, and Davis Guggenheim. My own family who are in the "yup, we're liberal" group, have been critical of the Teachers Union that I am in. I quickly learned that when my contract is up, not too mention contract negotiations. They don't know how much money I make, but am certain if I told them they would think it is too high.

      •  Oh please (0+ / 0-)

        Stop the whining with the liberals in quotes. There is nothing liberal about being a blind supporter of teacher unions.

        liberals are not for reducing pay. Those of us who are not in lockstep with the teacher unions want better pay for better teachers. but some of you guys wont even entertain a serious discussion on merit pay pooh poohing existing metrics as if those are the only metrics possible to reward better teachers.

        Any kind of suggestion to alternative use of public funds for PUBLIC schooling is seen as a trojan horse to destroy the teachers unions.  Personally, I also feel teachers get way too much blame by the conservatives. There are more problems with parents, administrators, and school boards than teachers themselves. But any kind of reform to those parts of public school system can't exist without some reforms to the teachers unions either. Every time I see that teachers union lady speak , all I see is defensiveness from her. Nothing enlightening.

        •  examples please (0+ / 0-)
          Those of us who are not in lockstep with the teacher unions want better pay for better teachers. but some of you guys wont even entertain a serious discussion on merit pay pooh poohing existing metrics as if those are the only metrics possible to reward better teachers.
          Propose something. Give an example of how you'd like to pay teachers.
          But any kind of reform to those parts of public school system can't exist without some reforms to the teachers unions either.
          Again, can you have a specific example of some type of reform to teachers unions that you'd like to see?
          •  Merit pay example (0+ / 0-)

            Teacher evaluations by students , parents and peers. While a teacher can get shafted by one or two camps, tough to see them shafted by all three camps. If they are unjustly evaluated by all three camps, then that is life. Sometimes life is not just.

            Also if a teacher is really that good, encourage a system where an indemand teacher will be sought out by other school systems who will bid for that teacher's services.

            Now it is not necessary that a teacher will be considered best for every circumstance. Some suburban teachers may be great in those environments but are not cut out for an inner city environment. Some teachers may be better at handling troublesome students and will be more in demand in such areas and such type of schools should be encouraged to seek out such teachers. Take Ron Clark. Let us assume he stayed in public schools. Every underperforming inner city public school should be bidding for his services and his pay would go up as a result of that. I doubt he would be of the same premium value to a suburban public school.

  •  Are you definitely retiring? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TexMex

    If so I missed that, and I read your diaries regularly.

  •  Thank you for pointing out this article, Ken! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, Flying Goat

    I teach in a school system adjacent to yours.  This is my 36th year.  The changes in the profession that have occurred over the life of my career are astounding to me.  It seems that teachers are no longer trusted as professionals to decide what and how to teach the students that they know.  It's become so top down and rigid--much of the curriculum even being age-inappropriate.  It saddens me.  Fortunately my subject (music) isn't one of the tested ones, so I can still teach students in such a way as to benefit them the most.  I know that will change soon.   The years with no salary increases and attacks on benefits along with the angry rhetoric can be soul crushing at times, but when I'm with my kids, I forget all that--though those salary and benefit issues will insure that I cannot retire when I should.  I wonder if those that push for these cuts realize that they are insuring that the older, more expensive teachers will stay on beyond their useful years simply because they have to to survive.  My guess is that they do know that which is why they push to eliminate tenure and job security.

    A colleague in my school system is a Maryland delegate.  He said that every year ALEC supported legislation makes its way to the floor --particularly in the form of right to work laws.  Every year it gets voted down (we can only hope that continues).  He asked one of the sponsors of one of the bills why he pushed this legislation.  The response was "We just don't fire enough teachers."  Incredible.

    “It is the job of the artist to think outside the boundaries of permissible thought and dare say things that no one else will say."—Howard Zinn

    by musiclady on Sat May 05, 2012 at 06:48:49 AM PDT

    •  the delegate needs some instruction (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Focusmarker, Flying Goat

      we lose something like 45%-50% of teachers in the first 5 years.  Most of those who are not making it in teaching are gone.  We lose some we do not want to lose, and we do a poor job supporting those who could succeed with help.

      Someone asked the Finnish Minister of Education what they do with teachers who are struggling?

      "We help them."

      When asked what they do if the teachers are still struggling -

      "We help them some more."

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sat May 05, 2012 at 07:01:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Our system's evaluation system is a supportive one (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        teacherken

        All non tenured teachers are assigned a mentor.  If any teacher is not performing well, their administrator can place them on PAR (peer assistance and review) in which they are assigned a consulting teacher to work with them.  They have a year and the consulting teacher makes a recommendation about whether or not the teacher should continue their employment to the PAR panel which is made up of union people, administrators and teachers.  While PAR is meant to be supportive, teachers who have been in that situation still often feel that it is punitive.    

        I agree with the Finnish Minister of Education.  Unfortunately supports for teachers are often the first things cut in tight budgetary times in an effort to preserve services for students.  I've never understood why people don't realize that cuts to teacher services do affect the students.  Our working conditions are the students' learning conditions.

        “It is the job of the artist to think outside the boundaries of permissible thought and dare say things that no one else will say."—Howard Zinn

        by musiclady on Sat May 05, 2012 at 05:12:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for sharing! (0+ / 0-)

    Often, when I am reading a good book, I stop and thank my teacher. That is, I used to, until she got an unlisted number. ~Author Unknown

    by iTeachQ on Sat May 05, 2012 at 07:14:01 AM PDT

  •  Sending this link on (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken

    to teachers that I know.  I hope that they will share it with their colleagues.  Thanks for calling it to our attention.  

    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

    by luckylizard on Sat May 05, 2012 at 07:40:07 AM PDT

  •  Thank you for sharing this. The column made (0+ / 0-)

    me smile and cry.  I'll be sending an email to a number of my former teachers.  :)

    Plutocracy (noun) Greek ploutokratia, from ploutos wealth; 1) government by the wealthy; 2) 21st c. U.S.A.; 3) 22nd c. The World

    by bkamr on Sun May 06, 2012 at 02:43:13 PM PDT

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