Marching For Students & Rallying for Respect

respect

West Virginia.

Oklahoma.

Kentucky.

In those states, teachers are not “walking out” and confronting lawmakers because of singular issues like salary, benefits, or working conditions.

They are marching for respect.

What lawmakers in those states are learning very quickly is that there is a difference between rewarding teachers and respecting the teaching profession.

A reward is something that is given in recognition of someone’s service, effort, and/or achievement. One could get a reward for doing well on a project or completing a task. Some could look at a bonus check as a reward for accomplishing a goal.

However, this teacher wants more than a reward from my General Assembly. A lot of teachers want more than a reward. We want respect for all of our public school teachers.

To have respect is to have a deep feeling of admiration for someone because of his abilities, qualities, and value. It is understanding that someone is important and should be taken seriously.

In this highly contested election year, many will be fooled by lawmakers wanting to “reward” the teaching profession with bills that might offer more pay or actually fund a mandate and mistake that for respect. Respect goes much deeper.

I am very glad to see that NCAE will call on NC lawmakers to “Respect Public Education” on May 16th when the NCGA reconvenes because it brought to mind that there are many stark differences between rewards and respect.

  • A reward sounds like something that can be used as a political ploy. Respect needs no political prompt.
  • A reward could be a one-time gift. Respect is continuous and grows.
  • A reward is a reaction to something. Respect guides your actions.
  • A reward is giving teachers a small bonus that gets taxed by the state and has no effect on retirement. Respect would be to bring salaries for teachers at least to the national average.
  • A reward would be to give a school some sort of distinction because it met a measurement achievement. Respect would be honoring teachers because of actual student growth in the face of factors out of the schools’ control.
  • A reward would be providing more textbooks. Respect would be to keep growing per-pupil expenditures to ensure that all students got the resources they need.
  • A reward would be giving a one-time pay hike to teachers. Respect would be to make sure they kept getting raises throughout their careers on a fair salary schedule and restoring longevity pay.
  • A reward may be speaking highly of principals. Respect would be not ever allowing our average principal salary to rank next to last in the nation for so long.
  • A reward may be to alter the teacher evaluation system. Respect would be to restore due-process rights for all teachers.
  • A reward may be to give more professional development for teachers. Respect would be restoring pay bumps for graduate degrees.

We have seen what a lack of respect for teachers has done to our state in a short amount of time. Where we once were considered a flagship state system, we are now in a state of regression. So while I will not decline a “reward” of a pay raise, I will tell my lawmakers that affording more respect to teachers, administrators, and teacher assistants could go a long in helping stop the attrition of teaching talent in North Carolina.

Why? Because if you respect something you will show it through your actions, not just your campaign speeches and vague promises.

And respect can work both ways. For those lawmakers who view public education as a priority and view teachers with respect, I will not only reward them with my vote, I would show my respect by supporting them throughout their terms.

But most importantly, don’t reward me for teaching. Respect me for being a teacher.

Our Schools Should Be The Most Colorful of Places

Schools should be places that should show some of the greatest amounts of color.

Imagine if you as a teacher had to visually represent the wide array of talents, learning styles, abilities, skills, interests, and intangibles that each student displayed just inside of your classroom in a given period. For many teachers, that is a lot of students.

Extend that to representing all of the students a teacher comes into contact with in the school setting outside of the classroom. Remember, there are schools in this state with over three thousand high-schoolers.

Imagine the amount of color that would be needed. One could use the widest palette of color and it still would not encompass the width and breadth of what I would want to convey. But it is a start.

pallette

And yet, that would not be the same palette that those who quantifiably measure schools would use. How schools and students are measured on a state level rarely takes into account that so much more defines the intellectual and social terrain of a school, its students, and its culture than a standardized test can measure. Why? Because there really is not such a person as a “standardized” student.

Measuring schools in quantified manners through surreptitious algorithms and standardized tests limits in what ways the public can see how successful our schools really are. It mutes the colors significantly.

In fact, it seems as if Raleigh wants to make sure that the only palette we can use to define the “color” of our schools is limited to a few options.

gray pallette

When schools are measured in terms of “pass / fail” or with “proficiency” instead of “growth” or with bottom lines instead of processes, then there is no room for color, just shades of gray.

Each student brings so much to a classroom. They each have presence and gifts. They bring in an expertise of their lives. They bring color. Experienced teachers understand that because they look at students as individuals who are the sum of their experiences, backgrounds, work ethic, and self-worth. They see the colors and they look for more to add to the palette.

And imagine what could be accomplished when the vision of a teacher is supported by the very resources to make those colors appear on a dynamic, organic canvas that is the educational experience. What if each teacher could have this at his or her disposal?

1115_art_supplies_1200

Yet the reality with underfunded public schools is that teachers do not have enough at their disposal. Textbooks are outdated, professional development funds are nonexistent; per –pupil expenditures are still low; teacher salaries are grossly misrepresented. It’s as if what teachers only supplied to them is this:

palette empty

Too many times teachers must pay from their own pockets for the supplies to fund basic needs and enrich educational experiences. It’s like that they have to not only buy the paints and the brushes, but the very easels as well.

That should never be the case in North Carolina or anywhere that is supposed to offer a good sound basic public education.

Interestingly enough, the word “color” not only deals with something visual, but extends to other senses like sound.

The word “color” on Merriam-Webster.com has fifteen definitions for its use as a noun.

  • The sky can appear a certain color because of the “hue, lightness, and saturation.”
  • There is a certain color to his cheeks based on his “complexion.”
  • Chopin’s prose shows a lot of “local color” in that it uses “a variety of effects of language.”
  • Some people associate themselves with certain groups by wearing the “colors” of a group.
  • A musical instrument can emit a “colorful” sound.
  • We need more “persons of color” as teachers in our public schools here in North Carolina and should as a state encourage more ethnic, racial, and gender diversity in our teacher force.

“Color” is a big, vibrant, vivid, lively, energetic word.

Yes, schools should be immensely colorful.