The attack on the institution of public education is one thing but when it moves to the personal level that we have witnessed over recent weeks, I really have to wonder about the future of public education. Our teachers spend countless hours and significant dollars out of their own pocket to ensure that their students have the greatest opportunity they can to learn and to develop their knowledge and skills. Yet there are many both in Austin and in Washington, DC who not only fail to acknowledge the tremendous work of our teachers but have decided to blast them collectively as a group.
What really makes me wonder is how we ever got to this point. When I reflect on my education in public schools, I can quickly recall individual teachers who had a profound impact on my life. I think of a second grade teacher who went to great lengths to make certain that when I got off of the school bus, I actually crossed the street to the school. (I didn’t for a couple of days but she found a way to get me in without threatening me or asking my parents to be the “heavies”.)
I think about a sixth grade teacher who taught me the importance of history and civics. The first election that I can truly recall was the presidential election in 1960, an election that witnessed the first series of presidential debates. And my sixth grade teacher was there to not only make us aware of this but to provide motivation for us to care about who was running.
I think about a math teacher in my sophomore year of high school who also served as a coach. The lessons he taught both in the classroom and on the field, including humility and commitment, are lessons I try to make a part of my everyday life. And I think about another math teacher in my senior year who, as our class sponsor, challenged us to do our very best. We may not have agreed with her approach but the message landed with most of us.
And I got to wondering if these professionals were the exception or the norm and how the efforts of teachers translates to today’s classrooms. I am blessed to have two grown children and two young grandchildren. I watched as my children developed and am privileged to witness how my grandchildren are growing up in a quality education system. It would be easy for teachers to ignore the individual needs of students (and some do but how is that any different than any profession, including politics?) but the vast majority are focused on the needs of every child in their classroom.
When I think about all of the positives in our public schools, now educating more than 5.3 million students in Texas alone, I have to wonder why “leadership” at the state and national level wants to demean the profession and those individuals who make education a priority for our students, our parents and our communities. I can only wonder what it will take to change their perception but know that continued grassroots advocacy across all stakeholders in public education is essential to making education a priority that is praised, not criticized at every turn. Thank you, teachers, for all that you do to make our public education system the best in the world.