While I did not advance as the ESC 11 Secondary Teacher of the Year, I was thrilled to have received an award for one of my essays in the competition. I had been nervous about my topic, as it addresses a need for change in our system…a desperate need. Here’s my essay:
In America we’ve seen a decline in the nation’s respect for, funding of, and value placed on education. Politicians who have never set foot in a classroom slash budgets, vilify teachers, and then point at an uneducated populace as if their actions had no direct impact on the outcome. We are embroiled in testing environments that suck the love of learning out of our classrooms, for students and teachers alike, while making state and federal governments money. The respected role of the educator is chipped away at by politicians, vendors, and parents as the workload of those teaching is increased, without adequate compensation. Schools have gone from places of learning and exploration to scapegoats for society’s ills. Is it any wonder that those without an education do not see themselves at any disadvantage, when the alternative is a school that is a political battleground where the true purpose of an education is lost in tests, measurements, and poor public opinion? Teachers are leaving the field in droves. Education is bleeding out. Who will save it (and save it we must)? The teacher. Because it is the teacher, whose heart beats to hear those “Aha” moments, whose pride rivals the parent as a graduate moves their tassel, and whose frustration at the current status quo knows the impotent fury of those oppressed and maligned for far too long. We must rise up and take back our classrooms, our playgrounds, and the very dignity of our profession. We must remove those programs, politics, and money-making schemes that do not uplift and empower students. We must fight for every square inch of our schools, our government, and our students’ futures. We must demand elected officials who will support and improve our educational system. We must partner with our communities and our parents to provide the education each child deserves and place them on the path that brings not just success but fulfillment. We must hold each other accountable for changing those practices that are not what’s best for students, and we must be grateful to those who will help us be accountable. We must move out of the past and into the future, a future that calls for flexibility, a balance of trade and college, technology, and the education of the heart AND mind together. We must remove prejudice and bigotry, providing equal access to opportunity for ALL of America’s students. We must hire good teachers and administrators, and then treat them accordingly. We must put our money where our mouths are and pay our teachers a salary commensurate with their education, their effort, and the importance of their work. We must laud districts that lead with the student in mind, and help those that do not. We must put on our overalls, lace up our boots, and get to the very serious work of repairing the damage to the institution of education – from the highest halls of Washington DC to the living rooms of our hometowns. Our children’s futures, the very future of our nation, depend on it.
Here’s the video they created based on my essay: