You owe it to yourself to go read it. Then come on back here.
When I read this piece first thing this morning I was cheered. There seem to be so few clarion voices talking about teachers. But then I read this a second time (Close reading, right?) and again. While I do believe Mr. Robinson is correct about poverty being an oft overlooked factor in education and achievement, I have some reservations about a few things in this editorial. My gravest comes from the first line:
"Teachers are heroes, not villains, and it’s time to stop demonizing them."
You see, i disagree. No, I am not saying teachers are villains. But I do not perceive myself as a hero either. I am a teacher. I care passionately about students and learning and books and reading. I teach because it is what I truly believe I was called to do. Teaching is my vocation not just my job. But that does not make me a hero. I think sometimes that we bandy that word about too much: HERO. When we do that it loses its meaning. I want to reserve use of hero for those situations when ANYONE acts heroically. I think of the teacher who lost her job a couple of years ago when she stood up to censors (and I know this is not an isolated incident). I think of the winner of the NCTE Award for Intellectual Freedom a couple of years ago, a college journalism professor whose students investigated claims by prisoners who felt they had been wrongfully convicted. His job was threatened; his students were harassed. I think of the teachers who protected kids during school shootings. I think of teachers who put their lives at risk educating women or the poor or the outcast in places around the world.
No, I am not a hero. They are. They serve to remind me, though, of the importance of what it is we all do. Perhaps we are all on a hero's journey, questing after that almost elusive grail, determined to see our way through the challenges.
And now, let me point out the line in the editorial I loved. Robinson talks about teachers digging in (referring to the strike in Chicago) and how he might just dig in as well if: "I were constantly being lectured by self-righteous crusaders whose knowledge of the inner-city schools crisis comes from a Hollywood movie." NAILED IT! All too often, I think, those who are critical of education have a Hollywood view of what it is we do. Teaching is so much more than that.