Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Teacher Bashing and An Overheard Goat

It’s happening again. There’s another Teacher Basher in the crowd. In an airport this time…probably not the best place to confront a total stranger and begin an argument. I mean, they won’t even let me take my Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion through security; do you think they’ll let me stand up at the gate to a plane and yell my position?

I first picked up on his (exceedingly loud) telephone conversation when he said that “history is nothing but memorizing.” I was ready then to present my counterpoint, that in schools today we don’t teach memorization. We teach thinking. I’m not even a history teacher, but I can just hear my colleagues across the country asking their students, “What if we had lost the Revolutionary War? How would we be different?” And then I hear my students answering, “We would all talk like Harry Potter and drink tea in the afternoons. Cool!”

But just as I was forming my remarks in my mind, the overly loud phone conversationalist said this: “It’s just because the teacher is bad. Face it. It’s a public school. Teachers are bad in public schools. If you’re lucky you’ll come across a couple of good ones. I had a few good ones in school. But most are bad.”

I choked on my airport “you have to check in way too early” breakfast muffin and listened. He continued so long that I considered handing him a thesaurus so that he could look up some alternatives for the word “bad.” Michael Jackson fan, I guess. Or a goat (baaa…aaa…ddd…)

Not a teacher fan.

Interestingly, I’m in this airport because I’m returning home from a teacher conference, a State Teacher of the Year conference, in fact, where I have spent the week exchanging ideas, laughter, and tears with the best and brightest, as well as some of the most inspiring and motivated, teachers across the country.

So here I sit faced with a dilemma. I have things to say about teachers. I have strong opinions about the phrase “bad teachers.” But to stand up and attempt a conversation with this man, this total stranger, when I am alone in this airport, would most likely be futile and would give him more fuel to add to his fire, to add to his negative opinion of teachers.

So I make a vow to myself to work harder at changing the public’s perception of teachers. And although I can make presentations to educator groups, stand in front of thousands, shout from the mountaintops (or at least across the blog-o-sphere), I think the place I can make the most difference is in my very own classroom. I need to make sure that none of my students’ parents ever refer to me in a conversation that echoes across an airport.

That would be baaa...aaa…ddd.


Nancy Flanagan said...

First of all, Cindi, I think you *are* dramatically different, with or without moisturizer. But your Airport Moron is, alas, an increasing phenomenon, I think.

There was an article in the Wall Street journal in the past week by Richard Whitmire and Andy Rotherham, proudly noting that most journalists now accept the fact that teachers and their unions oppose reform, and journalists are now willing to call the school community on those benighted beliefs. In other words, things that teachers wonder about--charter schools, vouchers, pay for performance, excessive testing, evaluating teachers by their students' test scores-- are now accepted by the mainstream press as genuine reform.

So your guy may just be repeating what he's seen on TV or read in the Wall Street Journal. Public schools? Bad. We all know that. Saying that there are some good teachers is the way you add a touch of balance to your unexamined belief system.

Here's where I find hope: for the 20th year running, parents (who know more about public schools than anyone) give the schools their children attend As and Bs, while giving public schools in general barely passing grades. So when that campaign to reinvigorate the image of public schools, we begin with parents.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it amazing that when someone wants to criticize teachers, they are very loud and public about it? Yet, compliments are whispered and dripping with pity. Could it be that I do look pitiful as I drag myself and my dinner through the grocery checkout line after a twelve hour day at school?

Anonymous said...

I have been following your blog for sometime... though this is my first comment here.

Thought would drop by and send you this site for your opinion before I start using it with my class.

Tom said...

Did he mention anything about how public schools are liberal brainwashing factories and how all of the kids will graduate with socialist ideals, copies of Mao's Little Red Book, and ACLU cards? That's my favorite one :).

Seriously ... I love when people just spout off against teachers without knowing how complicated the situation in schools is, as well as how involved our jobs actually are.

Maybe if I slam my head against a wall hard enough for long enough, I can become one of these people, an ignorant Chatty Cathy Hates Teachers doll: "My taxes pay your salary ... teachers are bad ... it's indoctrination ... it's the teachers fault ..."

*rolls eyes*

ShellyL said...

I'm amazed at all the vitriol that people have for teachers. Is it becoming a national sport? Maybe it's because so many people have had a teacher who was "bad", or at least hassled them over homework. And it's more fun to bash teachers than to remember the good ones.

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