Sean Slade

Is the Tide Changing?

After months of what has seemed and sounded to many as "teacher bashing," "teacher blaming," and "teacher scapegoating," maybe the tide is changing. Last month the Save Our Schools March saw several thousand public school teachers and supporters descend on Washington, D.C. There has been scrutiny of schools and districts—notably Washington, D.C.; Atlanta; and Los Angeles—that reported stunning improvements of standardized test scores. And today there are op-eds and articles praising teachers.

Strange but true.

In the New York Times on Friday, op-ed columnist Charles Blow wrote "In Honor of Teachers." As if this wasn't unusual enough, he then declares in the first line that he wanted to write this piece specifically "to celebrate a group that is often maligned: teachers. Like so many others, it was a teacher who changed the direction of my life, and to whom I'm forever indebted."

But how do we expect to entice the best and brightest to become teachers when we keep tearing the profession down? We take the people who so desperately want to make a difference that they enter a field where they know that they'll be overworked and underpaid, and we scapegoat them as the cause of a societywide failure.

Add to this the "You Made A Difference" Campaign started by Huffington Post blogger Scott Janssen. This video campaign "is an effort to let teachers know how they have made a difference in former students' lives by allowing those former students to thank their teachers by writing a note or uploading a public video to Facebook or YouTube."

Take a look. What words do you use when you talk about your best and favorite teachers? Does your list include relationships, belief, inspiration, or support?

Is the tide changing from blaming teachers to appreciating teachers?

Comments (5)

Peter DeWitt

September 6, 2011

HI Sean,

I certainly hope that the tide is changing. Public perception needs to change and education needs to be respected for more than a sound bite during political battles.

Jim Davis

September 7, 2011

I would never denigrate the importance of deserved praise for and to individual teachers. Unfortunately, I suspect many policy makers doing the most damage to education could say such things about and to individual teachers in their experience. That does not change a perspective hostile to the system in which so many dedicated teachers struggle and often fail to thrive, and less than passionate practicioners are almost doomed to fail. The “value our local school, doubt schools elsewhere” phenomenon is a variation on this theme. What does it take to convince a legislator that the value of public education system wide is greater than the value of a corporate contribution to a campaign warchest? Conflicting metaphors are only a small part of the problem!    JSD

Sean Slade

September 7, 2011

Key question Jim that hits home - what does it take to convince a legislator that the value of public education system wide is worth is greater than the value of a corporate contribution?

But I agree with Peter that before legislators change public perception needs to change. Legislators rarely lead.

If you havent yet click onto our whole child examples map (http://whatworks.wholechildeducation.org/examples/) which aims to start this conversational change and confront this “my schools fine, its the others I worry about” mentality.

Steve Francis

September 7, 2011

Awesome initiative!!! Sadly too many teachers don’t know the impact that they make on people’s lives. Teaching is demanding and stressful but it can also be rewarding and satisfying.

As teachers we have the capacity to inspire and really make a difference. Work-life balance is a myth! We should aspire to work-life satisfaction. We should aim to get satisfaction from our work and the other roles we play - parent, partner, community member.

Having the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life should bring a huge sense of satisfaction.

Michele Keating

September 8, 2011

Sean - Thank you so much for this post! It gives me hope that sanity is out there. The tide has to turn for the sake of the teachers and kids in this country.

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