Last week, I was reading a couple of blogs I follow regularly. On both blogs, the women who write for them were raising important awareness around standardized testing, accompanied by its pros and cons. Both women supported a parent’s right to choose whether or not their child should be tested, and in the conversation that followed the discussion, many parents applauded the teachers for investing in their children in spite of the pressures placed on them to raise academic bars for financial school gain. Many commenters said that they felt people should be thanking teachers for all they do to care for the children in spite of the stress inherent to a system that is often wrapped up in dollars and cents. Systems are often more concerned with gain and profit than they are with people.
But that descriptor doesn’t accurately define any teacher I know.
With this in mind, I tried to think of the last time I wrote a letter of gratitude from a parent’s perspective to teachers. I write a great deal from a teacher’s perspective, but often don’t allow myself the opportunity to write about educational issues from a parent’s perspective. Perhaps this is due to the often unwritten rule that being a teacher negates me from any form of open criticism of the system (I could lose my job), any type of public comment that would expose (teachers must honor internal allegiances and loyalties) as well as (apparently) offering up any type of applause (that would come across as if I was patting myself on the back).
Case in point. Last week, after reading comments on those two blogs, I decided that because I am a parent, and because I was reading parenting-type blogs- along with the fact that I have a vested interest in my children’s education, that I would assume the identity of a ‘parent’ and thus write a letter to teachers on behalf of parents.
I thought I could do so by virtue of the fact that I am a mother to four children, as well as due to the fact that I buy my four kiddos’ school clothes, book bags, lunch-boxes, sneakers, school supplies, coats and boots ALONG WITH…
* being one who attends meetings on their behalf, attends Parent-Teacher interviews and Back-To-School bar-b-q’s
* being one who listens to them and relays important information to their teachers, principal and guidance counselor; who studies with them for tests; who proofreads their papers; who practices with them their music.
*being one who tries to enhance their academic learning, intellectual work done in school, assist in their emotional development, spiritual understanding and gross motor/fine motor development as a partner with their schools
IN OTHER WORDS, by virtue of the fact that I am a mother to four children, I thought I could write a letter to teachers on behalf of parents commending and encouraging teachers for the good work they do each and every day on behalf of my children (and everyone elses’ for that matter, while I was at it!).
You see, after I wrote ‘said’ letter and published it on my blog, a letter which I thought a wider audience might enjoy reading and receiving a word of encouragement from, I received a fair bit of backlash. I had taken the blog article and published it on the Huffington Post as an open letter to teachers from parents, and the following comments are some of the feedback I received:
– “interesting. a teacher thanking herself.”
– “teacher thanks herself; now THAT says a lot about what is so wrong…”
– “The source of this “open” letter needs to be told. Otherwise it is just a bit of poorly written propaganda. And plagiarism. Doesn’t that deserve an F?”
– “Lori, how do you feel about the lack of resources for the schools when my taxes are paying for banked sick days so your colleagues can be paid full salary and benefits to stay home, I would say all those volunteer hours are actually paid for whether or not the teacher actually gets it immediately or is simply deferred and paid out under the current system when you cash in.”
– “Lori Gard That’s terrific. However, it (being a teacher who is also a parent?) is not a universal applicable to all teachers.”
So this is what I am thinking. Parents who are teachers are only apparently allowed to be teachers or parents– but seemingly cannot be both simultaneously.
Which is very hard.
This reminds me of my kindergarten students a few years back who found it very hard to believe that I didn’t sleep at school. Are adults also having a hard time imagining teachers living and functioning outside the four square walls in which they do their work? So it seems. I can be a teacher. I can be a mom. But I cannot mix the two. For if I do, there is some kind of perceptual dissonance that seems to occur.
There is a great deal of controversy surrounding teachers who try to pretend that they might have opinions, thoughts, feelings, questions and concerns about education that fall outside their professional milieu and overlap other areas of their being and person-hood. And for some reason, when these thoughts and feelings are expressed in a positive way (so as to promote something good), they are not viewed as a pure form of gratitude but are suspect as being plagarism and propaganda.
I am having a really hard time with this.