Friday, May 17, 2013

Teacher Appreciation Week Brings Mixed Messages

The Network for Public Education note of the week comes from Phyllis Bush, who serves on the NPE's Board of Directors, and is one of the founders of the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education.
These past few months have been a head spinning cluster of mixed messages about the state of public education. If we were to listen to all of the Teacher Appreciation Week rhetoric, we would naturally assume that we honor and value teachers, despite undercutting them at every turn.

Added into this hot mess of mixed messages is the slap in the face to public school teachers by President Obama, who chose to celebrate National Charter Schools Week during Teacher Appreciation Week. In yet another smack down for public education, Indiana Governor Mike Pence chose to sign voucher expansion into law at Calvary Christian School. If we were to listen to our Indiana state legislators, we would see that schools and teachers are failing and that the only thing that will save our children is to defund public schools and to have those tax dollars follow the child to a parochial school.

Despite all of these mixed messages and despite the fact the our state legislature cannot get beyond their own talking to points to listen to facts and passed the largest voucher expansion in these United States. Those of us in Indiana may have lost the battle in this legislative session, but we are more determined than ever to fight back in whatever way we can. Since Plan A didn't work, we are now working on Plan B.So far, Plan B consists of trying to inform business people who have not been involved. We plan to take our information to Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis, and any service group we can find. We are planning to create graphics to illustrate the abuse and misuse of our tax dollars. We are planning to search for both local and state candidates who support public education. We are planning to write op-ed pieces for our newspapers. We are going to channel Norma Rae, to tell our stories, and to let people know that public education is a public value.

Even though we are fighting mad and ready to take prisoners, art teacher, Jenny Sanders, put why what we are doing is so important when she wrote this:

"Our Kindergarten kids have LITTLE time for 'spontaneous' play although of course, we do have some 'prescriptive' play - which simply means we sort of PLAN their play. Still, now and then we REALLY get to have opportunities to watch, listen, and value the kids' thoughts and words. Yesterday one little guy used lots of odds and ends of scrap wood (few definitive squares or rectangles) to construct just a wonderful 'surround' for some jungle animals. It had complex bridge structures, small and large 'rooms' and was simply breathtaking in the way he had used the pieces for his purpose. Another little guy came up with a giraffe, gently placed him in the center of one of the rooms and said to him, 'You have made a place of joy for this giraffe!' You simply cannot quantify that experience - for the boys, or for the adults that witnessed that life and goodness-affirming moment."

After reading this anecdote, it seems important that we change the narrative to stress that education should be about learning, creativity, discovery, and joy. Teachers need to tell their stories from their classrooms and from their hearts. We all need to come together to change the narrative from those things that are being measured to those more important things which cannot be measured.

While only one week per year is designated as Teacher Appreciation week where teachers are honored and given an extra donut, here is our message that is neither mixed nor misinformed: we value and honor teachers every day.

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