I have spent a lot of time during my recovery watching TV. During that time, I have seen several reports about educators. They tend to fall into two categories: teachers as angels and teachers as demons. You know exactly what I am describing, right? The "teacher as angel" stories highlight the work of one educator who is doing something unusual with students. Recently, those stories have included a teacher who helped his class film a YouTube video when they did well on their math tests, another couple of teachers (there were 3 separate stories covering the same territory) who greeted each of their students at the door of the classroom with "handshakes" each student had created. Here's the thing (you knew there was a thing, right?). For every one of these stories, I can think of dozens or other educators I know who are also doing wonderful things EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I think of the teacher who has her own grant foundation to help teachers place real books in the hands of kids. I think of the teachers who read volumes of books so that they can be knowledgeable about the books they add to their classroom libraries. I think of the teachers who write alongside their students and share their writing openly. I think of the educators who build their classroom libraries out of their own pockets, who apply for grants to obtain better seating for their students, who mentor other teachers, who take extra food to school each day for the kids who might be hungry, This list could go on and on. Now, don't get me wrong. what these educators do is great work. However, if the reporters spent more time in schools what they would observe is that there are hundreds, thousands (more) who are quietly going about teaching each and every child each and every day. And when the news covers one of these "angel" educators periodically, the unspoken is that these folks are few and far between. The other day, our new Secretary of Education tweeted this: "Inspired to hear from a student who said he went from getting D's to the honor roll because he found a school where people believed in him." Fortunately others responded to this post as I am not certain I could have done so rationally. I firmly believe that in school after school there are educators who believe in kids.
What about the "educator as demon" stories? Those are the ones that tend to get more air time and are likely remembered more. They include the errant predatory educator. Those headlines and stories are given so much more attention than the day-to-day work of educators. They are, indeed, tragic stories that serve to remind us all that no profession is without its "bad apples." But the tweet from the Secretary falls into the demon category as its casts aspersions onto the work of teachers everywhere, insinuating that only in certain environments will children find acceptance and more. To be sure, there are plenty of critics who seem drawn to the demon category of stories as it reinforces their criticisms of the educational system.
Here is what I and many others have proposed: before drawing up one more plan to "improve" education, spend a year working in a classroom (even better in a range of classrooms) not as a visitor, not as an observer, but as an educator. Maybe, just maybe, these critics will conclude, "Gee, this is a lot tougher than anyone knew." And maybe, just maybe, the demon and angel stories will instead become a daily report of the work of an educator. One can always hope.