October is National Bully Prevention Month
in our schools but somehow there seems to be a grand irony lost in asking educators to try and step up to stop bullying when I am not sure if there is a professional group of people being more bullied
these days than teachers.
“We want you to stop the name calling and eradicate all bullying behaviors in the halls of your schools (you no-good, greedy, low-test-score-delivering louts).”
“We want you to teach respect and civility (you abhorrent, why-can’t-you-just-do-your-job worm lickers).”
“We ask that you reach down deep and instruct our young people in the noble ways of civility, kindness and respect (you detestable, how-dare-you-ask-for-health-care-benefits cretins).”
I’m paraphrasing, of course, but I do think the subtext
of so, so many national conversations that take place in the media in regards to the world of teaching and teachers (as instigated by the voice box of agenda-driven politicians, reformers and business folks)
is laced with a cocktail of contempt, disappointment, antagonism and good ol’ fashioned anger at those in our collective profession
What happened to teachers being considered an admirable and necessary pillar of society who deserve support, respect and encouragement? Am I simply being naïve, or have those things merely gone the way of Blockbuster Video storefronts?
Truly, to hear our peers in the world of education be mentioned on the nightly news is to know that, uh oh
, it’s time once again to cringe…’cause here it comes. To wit. To wit. To wit.
I swear all this “to witting” is going to make me lose my wits. And the more I think about it, the more I believe that all this railing against those in our profession is being done by nitwits.
Sheesh, to hear the mainstream media
tell it, one would think that those of us in education are actually members of Congress
Yet, to be fair, we now live in a land of polarized news—so to mention the mainstream media is to connote that the media wing (which claims to be fair and balanced and/or proudly right leaning) cuts teachers a bit more slack and delivers a bit more appreciation for their service. Bzzp. Bzzp. Bzzp.
Well, there goes that idea.
From the left, from the right, from up on high and even from within, we are taking a public hammering
. We’re being picked on.
We’re being bullied
And who is our champion? The unions? Boy, is that a mixed bag. The parents? Heck, it’s hard enough for them to rally for back-to-school night and let’s face it, they have their own problems. Well, perhaps it’s the Secretary of Education?
Does he like us
? Loathe us
? l can’t tell.
Now, to be fair, we deserve some of this criticism. Of course we do—but who doesn’t? Can we count a few of us in our ranks as despicable and horrifying? Yes, I believe we can.
But is that who “we” are? Is that the lion’s share of our constituency? How come there’s so little pushback against this insane stereotyping of teachers
as malcontents who are actually overpaid underperformers that are doing more harm than good in our community?
I’ll tell you why—it’s because most educators are too nice and too dedicated to the work
and too tired to fight the outrageousness.
As professionals, we’re not really all that combative by nature. To spend a great amount of our energy battling the nattering nabobs of negativity feels like a waste of time to most of us. Instead of waging a collective counterattack against the propaganda which seeks to paint us as low-performing and under-delivering, many of us simply absorb those messages, feel demoralized by the incessant abuse, and try to believe that better days will one day soon come and society will once again return to its senses.
Does anyone who is profiteering off of bashing and bullying teachers really see the long-term ramifications of such actions? They may think they are a “force for change,” but what’s really happening is that fewer people are aspiring to be teachers (in a time when we are facing a teacher shortage in the coming decade) and less respect is being accorded to teachers, which undercuts an educator’s ability to actually do the job society asks of them (and needs them to do). I mean, the last time I checked, pretty much every lawyer, doctor, engineer, software salesperson, Internet billionaire and venture capitalist began their career in the hands of a caring, concerned, knowledgeable teacher.
Teaching is the job that precedes all other jobs, and to tear the profession and its people down for short term glory (i.e. ratings or political gains) is to participate in a circular firing squad. Eventually, all of us will fall.
Bully away folks. But know that you do so at the expense of our collective future
And never forget—it’s much easier to tear something down than to build something up. That’s a critical point to remember.
It’s also a point relayed to me once upon a time by a teacher. Alan Sitomer was named California's 2007 Teacher of the Year. In addition to being an inner-city high school English teacher and former professor in the Graduate School of Education at Loyola Marymount University, Alan is a nationally renowned speaker specializing in engaging reluctant readers who received the 2004 award for Classroom Excellence from the Southern California Teachers of English, the 2003 Teacher of the Year honor from California Literacy, the 2007 Educator of the Year award by Loyola Marymount University and the 2008 Innovative Educator of the Year from The Insight Education Group. He’s the author of six young adult novels, three children's picture books, two teacher methodology books, and a classroom curriculum series for secondary English Language Arts instruction called THE ALAN SITOMER BOOK JAM.
© 2012 Alan Lawrence Sitomer. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.