I am a Teacher. That is to say I was a teacher until summarily dismissed, fired, forced to retire on April 25, 2017. I am not sure which term fits my demise best. Over the past two years, I reflected on a lifetime of teaching. In my search for answers, I discovered many esteemed educators are leaving their districts due to a hostile work environment. How do we raise up this noble profession to the reverence of yesteryear?
Communities: Make every effort to vet school board contenders to insure their educational values are based on knowledge and not political influence. What are their educational backgrounds? Have they taught in the public school system? Are they parents of school aged children?
School Board Members: Please demonstrate the same pre-election exuberance after elected. Are you resolved to insure teachers’ freedom from vitriol criticism and frivolous complaint? How do you avoid becoming, inadvertently, a rubber stamp for ineffectual or bullying administrators?
Students: No teacher exists, including the ones you dismiss as inept, who doesn’t feel the day to day rigors of insuring your success. You need to avail yourself in committing sweat equity to the work required. Instead of complaining about instructors, challenge yourself to positively impact their daily routine.
Stand up for your vulnerable peers. Demonstrate, through actions, your school is a safe place. You may need to do something drastic and unexpected to protect the wellbeing of those around you. Become a fierce warrior advocate for kids unable to defend themselves. You hold the power to make a difference.
Parents: For the love of all humanity, step away from your computer! Writing incensed e-mails to your child’s teacher, hitting send and believing you are entitled to rancorous opinions is the most demoralizing act perpetrated on teachers. If you find it awkward to speak to the teacher face to face, re-evaluate the validity of your complaint. Your children are entitled to an equitable education. They are not guaranteed high grades, a lead in the play or varsity standing.
Allow your child to fail! Even if the perceived failure resulted from unfair selection or grading, supporting children in the how to’s of overcoming disappointment is paramount to their development. Scottie Pippen, winner of four NBA championship rings and two Olympic gold medals, received no athletic scholarship from any university. He originally made his small college basketball team as the equipment manager. Thankfully no parent, teacher or administrator felt pressured to change the sequence of events directing his young life.
Administrators: Two valuable tools disappeared in the last 20 years: mentorship and due process of staff. The art of constructive criticism has been lost to abrasive and unfiltered attacks. Children are NOT victims, teachers are NOT monsters and the parent is NOT always right. Dereliction in eradicating abusive student behavior and the omission of shielding teachers from unwarranted condemnation wreak havoc for the teaching profession. Administrators must provide judicious faculty assessments, unbiased decisions and guidance.
Teachers: If you are new to the profession, muster your courage and stay the course. Life exists after a poor assessment, admonishment from an administrator or parent complaint. Do not allow naysayers to destroy your passion for teaching.
Are you a seasoned teacher? If you have journeyed thus far without consternation, count your blessings. An extraordinary administrator mentored and shielded you!
Let’s make sure “putting kids first” is not just a clever slogan on a school district advertisement. Our children are the future of this country. Putting them first translates into guaranteeing teachers have a supportive environment to make that true difference in a child’s life. We all wear the same team jersey! If we advocate for the better treatment of teachers, this action alone could become the single positive force to alter the downward spiral of our fractured public school system.
Exciting news! “Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child!” is nominated for a TOPSHELF 2020 Book Award. Pick up your copy TODAY from Amazon/B&N. After reading it, please give it to a deserving parent, teacher or administrator.
I welcome the third fall where I do not return to teaching. Understand I loved teaching for 46 years. The students were the highlight of my career. But there were times my colleagues and parents often created an atmosphere of distrust and disdain. You have to love children in order to teach! Why else would anyone return to a job where the environment has the daily potential of toxicity.
Examples of overt adult bullying:
1. An administrator sends an email to a teacher asking the teacher’s presence in his office three days down the road. When the teacher writes back and inquires why the meeting, the answer is vague. Knowing the teacher will worry about the reason for three days provides the administrator more ammunition to harass. Upon arrival to the meeting, there is a list of accusations from students, parents and colleagues. All allegations are assumed true. Even when the teacher thoughtfully explains, there is no sign of affirmation from the principal.
2. The team leader conducts the day’s agenda only to spend the last five minutes in an open, negative discussion regarding one of the teacher’s actions.
3. Parents truly believe their child is the brightest and the best. When a teacher, coach or in my case a choral director does not pick this child for the musical, highest choir or (fill in the blank), questions of how the child may improve are NEVER asked. Instead vitriol emails of accusations of ineptitude prevail.
4. Tenured teachers cannot be fired. But they can be driven out by the above behaviors. In my research, I believe this approach of ridding the nation’s older, more experienced teachers is the norm and not the exception. Instead of offering a cap to their salaries or buyout, these seasoned educators’ lives are harangued and harassed by parents, colleagues and administrators.
How did I arrive at the above list? All transpired in my last nine years of teaching. My advice after 46 years: DON’T PUT UP WITH THESE BEHAVIORS. This fall, resolve to become proactive in your stance against the bullies who undermine and deter your success.
I address strategies in my book to avoid becoming the victim of such bullies. Please purchase my book “Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child!” from either Amazon or Barnes & Noble. PRICE REDUCTION! Read it, use it as a catalyst for fighting those who impede your life as a teacher and then put it in the hands of a deserving parent, colleague or administrator.
What a great idea! Using this book as a professional development day. Questions for students, parents, teachers and administrators follow almost all chapters. And there is one chapter entirely dedicated to reflective questions. There are solutions to bettering the lives of our educators. Read about them today!
I found this in my Facebook memories from two years ago:
God often uses money to confirm direction for our lives. Many times God uses a lack of provision to move us into new directions. It is a catalyst to encourage new ideas and strategies. Many times a loss of job becomes the greatest blessing to our lives because it provides the catalyst to do things we simply would never do without taking the step to get out of our comfort zone. -From Ephesians Four Ministry
April 25, 2017 my principal stood above me, shouted the words “Did you not hear me? You will not be the choir teacher here next year! If you do chose to return, you will be placed where you cannot be a part of any negative student interaction and where you will have nothing to do with collecting money.” Today, July 22, 2019, some 790 days later (but who’s counting), I now understand the above quote. Here are the gifts I received since my dismissal:
- RESEARCH: Pay disparity and disrespect are the issues confronting today’s teachers. Teachers are leaving the profession in greater numbers than ever before.
- REALITY: Harassment of older teachers with the intent to drive them out is the dark and dirty secret prevailing upon our nation.
- REAL PURPOSE: I would never consider authoring a book were it not for the fact there is a national trend to rid our system of experienced teachers.
- RELEVANCE: Some 19 months later, I saw the fruition to my writing in a published book “Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child!’
- RESISTANCE: My new purpose is to expose this trend: experienced teachers are persecuted by parents and inept administrators. When these educators escape the fray, they are often times replaced by unskilled younger teachers while school districts tout “putting kids first’ on their websites.
It’s truly odd to speak a heart of gratitude to those who ended my career so abruptly. I now see clearly my path detoured in order for me to become a teacher advocate. I will dedicate the remainder of my life to that end.
I am a retired teacher. Thankfully I run a private voice studio which supplements my meager pension. However, in the summer, my voice students take the time off for a warranted break. It’s been a while since a new student sought out my studio. Yesterday, a lovely young lady came for her introductory, no obligation lesson. I love my job! Teaching the joy of singing to aspiring young people is a rewarding vocation. Yesterday was not an exception. At the end of the lesson, she dutifully paid me her $30 via Square, hugged and assured me she would return.
Today, Square supplemented my income with $29.17. I was thrilled. No really, I was excited to see money credited to my account. It’s been over 30 days since my bank account saw a voice student entry on the right hand side.
Why do I write about this? Welcome to my stark reality and the reality of all retired teachers. Unless you have a well-to-do partner, your bank account balance feels fragile. Is this plight of the retired teacher futile? If legislators stop and realize the injustice teachers receive every month when they see their check stubs, something could be done. I do not have much faith in any legislation. But I do have faith in humanity.
What teachers need now are corporations, billionaires, professional athletes, musicians, business people, doctors and lawyers to step up and realize how their lives were influenced by teachers. Step up is defined as finding creative ways to take portions of huge salaries or gigantic earnings and siphon them to supplement teachers’ salaries and pensions. I can already hear your eyes rolling! But think about it: what if someone with financial power decided to set a precedence and insure teachers in his state that their dedication is not only appreciated but also financially supported. Is it unreasonable to believe an athlete earning seven and eight figures could take a portion each year and contribute to a state teachers’ retirement? All it takes is one person to start the ball rolling. One can dream.
Writing my book was never about profit. I simply wanted to share my experiences as a 46 year veteran teacher as well as provide viable solutions. Okay, a few dollars more in my bank account wouldn’t hurt! Please purchase my book “Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child!” from either Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Have yourself a summer read and affect change for our nation’s educators.
In 1968 I was afforded a wonderful opportunity to study in Bremen, Germany, for a summer. Minoring in German in my university studies thus provided complete immersion into the German culture. Upon seeing my empty passport from the past 50 years, I sought to return to Europe a week ago. As a college student in 1968, touring castles and churches of the area was not a high priority. This time, determination to learn the histories of the Netherlands, Germany, France and Switzerland prioritized my travel.
As the guide explained about today’s German culture, I heard these words: German teachers earn as much as German cardiologists. Teachers’ pensions are held in high regard, with retiring teachers given honor by Germany’s chancellor. With significant pensions, teachers do not need to supplement their retirement. What a novel idea!
I spent many of my blogs sharing the issues facing teachers today. Educators, leaving their positions this year, stated money was not the primary reason for their departure. Reality therapy: some of the abuse, long hours and lack of support by parents and administrators could be lessened if the salary reflected the “battle pay” teachers deserve. The following is from Business Insider, researched by Shayanne Gal, Marissa Perino and Leanna Garfield (May 2019):
After 46 years of teaching, with both a Bachelor’s and 18 hours post my Master’s degree, my final teaching salary was only a few thousand dollars above an entry position (person holding only one degree). How could this transpire in a country which prides itself as a leader in education? Out of a 14 hour student day, a child spends half of it sitting in front of an educator. This student will attain self perception, learn about his world and gather information to accommodate him throughout his adult life. Are we to believe the national average of teacher pay at $60,000 insures our children are receiving the best education on a world stage? Teachers are leaving the profession in numbers greater than ever before. Are these top educators replaced by “cheaper versions”, less experienced teachers? Does the adage “you pay for what you get” apply to this conundrum? The clever school districts’ slogan of “putting kids first” needs to be re-evaluated. Our nation is failing today’s children by the very fact that low pay attracts less motivated and skilled educators. How much longer will this continue?
Enjoy a great summer read with answers to these questions. “Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child!” is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.