The number of big yellow buses on the roadways was one reminder. The morning and afternoon traffic congestion along our community’s main arteries was another. And the continuing headlines about the new Common Core educational standards and back-to-school sales everywhere were two more.
Truly, all point to the start of another busy, and in many ways challenging, school calendar. And whatever the calendar holds, it is a reasonable assumption teachers are involved — whether it’s from the traditional 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. time zone, or the long hours afterward. And those hours often stretch well into the evening.
But it is a newspaper column that most recently reminded us of the value of, and the public’s growing expectations from, our school teachers. Regular readers of Jim Davidson, whose syndicated column appears in the Monday edition of our newspaper, will recognize the text below. It was just published earlier this week. But its content is so powerful that it easily merited this editorial space.
According to Davidson, who hails from Conway, Ark., the commentary was sent to him by a Kansas teacher. He printed it verbatim in his column, as we will do again today. We believe it is that relevant to the plight faced by today’s American teacher.
It is titled “A 21st Century Teacher Applicant.”
No doubt, the ears of teachers will perk and their eyes will widen at the reality of what is said below. We urge you to take the time to read it for a full appreciation of what our professional educators are asked to do ... most of which goes far and beyond the realm of any textbook.
It reads as follows:
“Let me see if I have this right. You want me to go into that room with all those kids and fill their every waking moment with a love for learning?”
“Not only that, I’m supposed to instill a sense of pride in their ethnicity, behaviorally modify disruptive behavior, observe them for signs of abuse and T-shirt messages. I am to fight the war on drugs and sexually transmitted diseases, check their backpacks for guns and raise their self-esteem. I’m to teach them patriotism, good citizenship, sportsmanship and fair play, how and where to register to vote, how to balance a checkbook and how to apply for a job.
“I am to check their heads occasionally for lice, maintain a safe environment, recognize signs of potential antisocial behavior, offer advice, write letters of recommendation for student employment and scholarships, encourage respect for cultural diversity of others, and, oh yeah, always make sure that I give the girls in my class 50 percent of my attention. I’m required by my contract to be working on my own time during the summer and evenings at my own expense toward advance certification and a master’s degree; and after school, I am to attend committee and faculty meetings and participate in staff development training to maintain my employment status.
“I am to be a paragon of virtue larger than life, such that my very presence will awe my students into being obedient and respectful of authority. I am to pledge allegiance to supporting family values, a return to the basics and to my current administration. I am to incorporate technology into the learning, and monitor all websites while providing a personal relationship with each student. I am to decide who might be potentially dangerous and/or liable to commit crimes in school or who is possibly being abused, and I can be sent to jail for not mentioning these suspicions.
“I am to make sure all students pass the state and federally mandated testing and all classes, whether or not they attend school on a regular basis or complete any of the work assigned. Plus, I am expected to make sure that all of the students with handicaps are guaranteed a free and equal education, regardless of their mental or physical handicap. I am to communicate frequently with each student’s parent by letter, phone, newsletter and grade card.
“I am to do all of this with just a piece of chalk, a computer, a few books, a bulletin board, a 45-minute more-or-less plan time and a big smile, all on a starting salary that qualifies my family for food stamps in many states. Is that all? And you want me to do all this and expect me NOT TO PRAY?”
It is a lesson learned by any who thought they understood the demands placed on today’s teachers.
As we have said countless times, we admire the work of our Cleveland City Schools and Bradley County Schools teachers. Their task is not easy nor do most people envy it.
We thank the Kansas educator who sent this piece to Davidson, and we appreciate the Arkansas columnist for giving it a needed voice in such a respected public forum.
Thank you, teachers — not just for the classroom learning, but for the lessons learned.