Politics Free — Yeah, Me!

John-Paul of Man of Errors wrote a brilliant post today.  You should go read it, but wait a minute.  I’ll be quick.

JP writes beautifully, always, and it is a joy to read him.  But today’s post struck a chord and brought back something I wanted to share with him and everybody else but had forgotten.

First, here is what JP says about how he is making a difference:

As it happens, over the last two years I have been trying to think what I could do to make my society a better place.  I thought about donating food to a foodbank, and I started on the process of volunteering to help refugees, but then I stopped.  I was dissatisfied with both of these responses.  Just last week I realised that I don’t need to find something to do.  I am already doing it.  I am a teacher, and I have the potential to help 100 people a day.  In some ways I can’t believe I was so stupid that I didn’t see what my opportunity was before, but in another way I am not surprised.

Unfortunately, over the last few years I have felt attacked by the government.  I have felt that my opinion was not important, and that for some reason the government wanted to label teachers and schools as failures.  They certainly didn’t want to talk to us.  We have been sneered at and diminished.  Teachers are not above criticism.  We listen to it everyday.  Our working environment is not one that encourages arrogance or complacency.  You don’t get into teaching to develop a big head.  You also don’t get into teaching to be a doormat to political agendas which have little proven worth to education, or to give up on things like your internationally admired curriculum.  When we defend education we usually do it for the students and the community, and not out of self-interest.  And yet we are sneered at and diminished.  How does this benefit society?

JP and 99.9% of teachers make a huge difference in the lives of those they touch.  And education matters enormously.  It influences everything — how you approach the world, how you think, what you do when you grow up.

As someone who didn’t manage to finish college (yet), I know first-hand the value of education and the cost of its absence.  I recognize it each payday.  I’m not complaining.  Not only do I have a paycheck, but  I have been incredibly lucky and have a great job and the respect and friendship of an office full of high school grads as well as MDs and PhDs.  I often get to boss them around which is nice, too.

And JP’s piece made me think of this monologue by Taylor Mali.  A teacher.  I thought that anybody who hadn’t seen it should.  So here you go:

Now please go read JP’s post here.  I really hope I can be in JP’s class when I go back to school.

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45 Comments

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45 responses to “Politics Free — Yeah, Me!

  1. Reblogged this on The Last Of The Millenniums and commented:
    As someone who has been forced to teach from time to time(I’m NOT a teacher but far too many people who know where I live seem to think I’m good at it) the Taylor Mali video was GREAT.
    But yeah everyone, read JP’s post.

  2. I’m honestly sorry I don’t have the temperament to be a teacher.
    And hats off to anyone who is.

  3. Glad you liked them, Fork! Thanks!

  4. I enjoyed the video and loved JP’s excellent essay. Thanks for the link!

  5. I love that video. Hadn’t seen it in a while. I will always think it is absolutely ludicrous how much money some entertainers and professional athletes make, and we can’t even provide for the educational system. My son’s elementary school has no art or music teacher, no paid librarian (there is an amazing woman who fills the position on a volunteer basis), no full time Special Ed instructor, and only one Special Ed aide for the entire school. I honestly don’t know what the teachers make, but I know it’s not nearly enough.

    And as much as my son (who has learning disabilities and other neurological issues) hates school and begs me to home school him, there is no way I could teach him. I support his teacher, and lean on her to help me learn the new way they teach math, so that my kid, with the different brain, will get it. I could never do her job. Just wish the system would change for the better.

  6. John-Paul

    Hello. Just popping by to say thanks. I had never seen the clip. I felt sorry for that lawyer. How much you get paid is totally irrelevant, but some people don’t see it. In fact most people on the planet would be very happy with a teacher’s salary. The fact that whole other sectors get paid massively more is the real problem.

    Randomly, I followed some of the links after watching the clip here and found Brad Pitt saying that all the people fighting in town halls in the USA had probably never been to a socialist country, but he had (grim look… it’s terrible) “and I can tell you we’re doing fine.” What a weird thing to say. I live in a socialist country and I’d like to assure Mr Pitt that we only eat our children on Christmas, and hardly ever burn books anymore.

  7. Teachers are often underrated and many are overrated. I’ve had my share of both. The thing is, how on earth do we separate the two and compensate accordingly? I do think the classrooms are overcrowded these days and the schools are lacking the appropriate funding. I wish I had the answer. Love this post. It really highlights an issue that will determine our future.

    • I agree — not all teachers are like Taylor Mali or my bloggin buddy JP. But over the last several years teachers like government workers have been denigrated to a horrible degree. That is not the way to attract good people to the profession. You’re also right that this issue is all about our future. Thanks for the comment, Renee.

  8. Of course, I’m biased since I am a teacher, but most of the teachers I know are hardworking and dedicated. In the current political climate, we have been denigrated and accused of living high on the hog because we have benefits and pensions. t seems that many people would prefer us to live at a subsistence level. Sad.

    • I agree wholeheartedly, YS. Most of them are. And we need to stop denigrating them, their profession and education in general. Especially when the source of so much of the denigration is so often from prep school dweebs.

  9. I’ve had some great teachers from elementary through post grad. Some who had profound positive impact on my life. I also had several who should never stepped into a classroom who continued to negatively impact many students.

    I can see all sides to the issues surrounding education. It’s very three-dimensional, with no one-size-fits-all agenda. It can’t be all one way or the other. It’s going to require strong leadership at the federal, state, and local school system levels to turn this around.

    There seems to be way too much politics involved and not enough focus on the students and true teacher evaluation. At its simplest – are the teachers successful at passing on meaningful information, and are the students successful in learning the information.

    • It’s pretty complex, but I think that teachers simply need to be allowed to teach and paid to do so. YS below has a very important point and makes it well. Check her out.

  10. I loved the video. It is for such powerful posts that I follow you blog, Elyse. I love you non-political, non-partisan, posts. And I will fight to defend your right to keep posting political comments. It is your right. This is your on-line home and therefore your rules. I respect that.

    • Thanks Russ. I know — I’ve been very political lately (I wonder why). There is too much fodder. I think I will just let folks know in the heading if they need to click on it. At least until Obama wins and I can get back to normal!

  11. There is so much legislation to prevent bullying in schools, but the politicians seem to have no problem bullying the schools and teachers. It seems that as soon as politicians are educated and go out into the world, they forget the people who helped them get there.

    Teachers make a difference in so many more ways than those measured by tests.

  12. Michelle Gillies

    Elyse, Thank you for reminding of this video. It is still one of the most powerful pieces on behalf of teachers I have ever heard. It makes you want to stand up and cheer for them which, is as it should be.

  13. Thank you. I teach an older crowd (or as I like to put it, I work an older audience with my stand up routine, but the message is the same). I could make twice as much money as a nurse, but I make ten times “the difference” as an instructor.

  14. Teachers need to allowed to teach. Our future is important and the thought of having a group of professional test takers in charge is frightening. The art of independent thinking is withering away. Let teachers teach and pay them to do so!

    • Yes, I think we need to cut the administrators and leave the teachers alone. I swear, our schools spend more money of folks on the periphery than they do on the real thing.

      Independent thinking? Critical analysis? Where the hell would we all be without it?

  15. Of course, as a college professor, this post would touch me, Elyse. Thanks.

    I know about how important it was for me to feel like I was making a difference in the lives of my students and the pain I felt at the off-handed criticisms of people who had no idea what it takes to be a devoted, excellent, academic professional. Sure, as in every profession, there are those whose hearts aren’t in it, but to condemn an entire profession because of the bad apples is so unfair.

    There is a lot that could be better about our educational system and processes. But maligning teachers isn’t going to fix anything. You don’t motivate a person to greatness by whipping them…That goes for students and teachers!

    • Absolutely, Lorna. It is also going to become a self-fulfilling prophesy by attracting less bright folks. And there is so much stupidity in the world we really need good teachers to tackle it …

  16. Teaching is different today than 30 years ago … and what was 30 years ago was different than what was 30 years before that. Nonetheless, given what is expected of teachers today, I can’t imagine many making it to full retirement because they will be driven away.

    • Some things about teaching should change — the world changes and we all need to keep up. But that treatment of teachers as part of the problem is akin to “the government IS the problem.” It leads to the recruitment of poorer candidates and the fulfillment of the moniker. Which is WRONG!

  17. Thanks Elyse. This was great to watch a week after my staff development where I learned what the words “always” “rarely” and “few” meant in preparation for the new teacher evaluations. Yup, they think we’re all dumb.

  18. First of all, I LOVED Taylor Mali’s rant in defense of teachers and teaching! I’ve never seen it before, so thanks for sharing, Elyse.

    I had almost all good to great teachers during my school years, and when I was actually making an effort to pay attention to them, I learned a great deal from those who attempted to teach me – even when I was 13 and mini skirts were accepted faculty dress at the time, and sometimes I was paying more attention to my teacher’s legs, than what she was saying.

    Teachers today would have a much easier time of it, if they would just stop pissing off Republicans by stubbornly continuing to be members of unions and selfishly defending their rights. Right? Yeah, sure! That’s right – in fact it’s so “right” it’s dead wrong!

    Oh but wait a minute here… your post is called “Politics Free – Yeah, Me!” So I will stop my politicized pontificating right now. And Elyse, please be sure to not miss my next post, called “Sexual Content Free – Yeah, Me!” Lol :-D (kidding!!!)

    .

    • I tried to keep away from politics for a change. I’ve been overindulging lately.

      I am looking forward to that post you mentioned, Chris.

      • Overindulging in politics these days is entirely understandable, Elyse. In fact, it could even be called doing your civic duty as an American citizen who cares enough to want to take some personal responsibility for the future direction of our democracy. Which sure beats the hell out of willful ignorance and apathy…

        What I am known for overindulging in, is less easily defended or excused, except to say that I’m consistently a very passionate guy – with a passion for politics as well as that other thing I’m so passionate about…

        Lol ;-) I’ll bet you would not be the only one who would look forward to that post I mentioned, IF I ever intended to actually write such a post, which will happen at about the same time Mitt Romney develops a comic sense of timing and the ability to get people to laugh with him, instead of laughing at him.

        PS – You might want to take a second look at my most recent post, which I rewrote yesterday, when I realized that the original version was definitely not ready for prime time. I am much more satisfied with the result of my revised version.

  19. Thank you so much for that one! My best mom, the one of my heart was a teacher. My DIL wants to be one and is nearly there, her mom is one and has been for nearly 30 years (no thanks to Rick Perry). I had some phenomenal teachers throughout my school days, all the way through university. Teachers change our lives.

  20. Thank you, thank you thank you. I’m so glad you shared both of these things. I’m not a teacher, but I am a great admirer of those who are. It is the toughest and most important job in the world.

    • Sure thing M&M. Teachers are especially put down these days and it is very wrong. No, not every teacher is a great or even a good one. But they make a difference in who we are because they open so many doors for us.

      I’m glad JP reminded me.

  21. Thank you!! As a teacher, I know all too well how demoralizing it is to give my all to those kids in my class, only to hear the politicos discussing “our broken educational system” and “holding teachers accountable”. It is for sure getting harder and harder to keep fighting the good fight out there in the trenches. The moral in even very good schools is dropping fast, and that makes me really sad: who will want to step up to teach my grandchildren in this environment?
    Many thanks for this supportive post!

    • Sure thing, Moms. I completely admire teachers and know that I couldn’t possibly do what you guys do every day. You do make a difference. And who doesn’t remember their favorites and their most challenging teachers?

  22. Despite it being quite some time ago, I remember two teachers, one math and one social studies, as being quite above the others. They let me teach my peers. While the math teacher was simply overwhelmed by the idea of programming computers and the social studies teacher knew I had learned more about World War 2 then he had, they both used a common method – whatever it took to get through to the kids. I’m not saying I was a teaching savant, but hearing the lessons coming from one of their own made the kids perk up and take notice. Too many teachers I encountered used fixed plans with no room to maneuver, plans that were imposed on them by rigid management and arbitrary standards. We need to pay our teachers a decent wage, and let them teach, rather than checking off boxes on a form.

    • I had some great teachers, too. And they make a difference in people’s lives every day. I agree that we need to pay them, respect them and stop forcing them to teach to “the test.”

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