National Teacher Day isn’t nearly enough

05/04/2014 3:59 PM

05/04/2014 9:25 PM

Tuesday is one of those conjured days of “appreciation” that are so easily mocked.

It’s National Teacher Day, part of National Teacher Appreciation Week. They ought to rename it. Set aside the sentimental offerings of shiny red apples, the videos of people thanking that special educator.

How about National Understand a Teacher’s Job Day? Or make it a monthlong event, because fulfilling that mission would call for its own lengthy curriculum. Teachers, like few other professionals, are under attack.

It’s not that there aren’t problems in public education. There clearly are, from struggles with adequate and equitable funding in Kansas to the failings of unaccredited districts like Kansas City. Well-intentioned or not, many education efforts go awry because of a mistrust of educators in general. Often, it’s a perception that traces back to misinformation about the challenges teachers face, the systems already in place around them.

You can find it in legislative efforts to “fix” problems in public education, within the expectation that teachers magically transcend problems grounded in poverty and administrators too detached from the realities of the classroom. Kansas and Missouri, of course, are not immune. We’ve seen efforts to abolish teacher tenure with seemingly little understanding of the processes for hiring and firing already in place.

The backlash to Common Core is outrageous. Among its goals is ensuring that all children meet benchmarks of problem solving and critical thinking. Forty-five states approved it, with the massive support of districts. Yet the president of the National Education Association, Dennis Van Roekel, recently reported the “botched” implementation of Common Core. He reported that seven out of 10 teachers “believe that implementation of the standards is going poorly.” Primarily, this was due to “little to no attempt” to include teachers — the people who will be blamed later — for input.

American public education is undergoing a massive reordering in expectations and measures for how children learn. It’s necessary and overdue. But if we’re to make changes that raise standards, for accreditation and outcomes, more people need to start with being less hostile to teachers in general.

And that starts with respect. Real respect. Not Pollyanna pronouncements on one day of the school year.

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