Every time I turn around, another teachers’ strike begins. The issues never change–higher wages, better benefits, smaller class sizes, expanded book and supply budgets.
People in charge never get the message, do they?
Yet dollars can’t fix everything.
The profession is plagued by a pervasive negative attitude. While usually unspoken, I heard it loud and clear once, and I can’t forget it.
It happened at a mandatory dinner at a private school where board members, faculty, and spouses would share a kumbaya experience over chicken and cake. A board member and spouse headed each table of eight to ten.
After introductions, our particular host regaled us with tales of his recent trip to the Far East where he purchased handmade suits and shirts for a song. He stood to show off the intricacies of fine tailoring. But that wasn’t all. He gloried in the jewelry he bought for his wife and reached over for her arms–displaying exquisite diamond rings and bracelets. He urged us all to save vast amounts of money by shopping in Asia.
We kept shoveling in the chicken, making no comment.
But we had plenty of thoughts, mind you, wearing no custom-crafted or be-jeweled anything.
Suddenly murmurs and scooting chairs happened across the room. Our board host raced over, knelt down, and quickly returned. As he passed the neighboring table, he stopped that rising board member and said, “It’s just a teacher.”
Thank goodness, I guess, that the choking victim (who was rescued by a nurse married to a teacher at that table) wasn’t one of their mighty own.
I re-live that shocking moment every time another strike breaks out. I read the heartfelt poster slogans about the value of teachers, but I know all too well the purse strings are held by people like that arrogant host, people who devalue teachers by tossing a few dollars at them when publicly shamed.
Yet, who has gotten anywhere without an inspiring teacher?
My senior English teacher Mrs. Schick asked me to stop by after class one day. She told me that I had exceptional writing skill and that I didn’t have to do the essay assignments she gave the class. She told me instead to submit any piece of writing that mattered to me because she thought I had talent. She believed I could write professionally.
I did indeed.
And, yes, Mrs. Schick, according to that board member, was “just a teacher.”