Every day, my wife, a fourth-grade teacher, comes home exhausted. She then stays up late grading papers and preparing for the next day. Lying in bed waiting for her to go to sleep, I become concerned. Mainly that she will discover my secret stash of Trader Joe’s Pound-Plus dark chocolate with almonds, which I take great pains to hide.
But I also become concerned about her health and sanity. Which is why I am frustrated and disappointed with the attacks on teachers of late. What the heck is going on with our country? Reading comments on message boards about the showdown in Wisconsin and the general issues about unions has been eye-opening: “Teachers only work 7 hours a day, and 9 months year,” “Yeah, and they get the day off for every holiday known to man!” “My cousin talked to a teacher once, and the next day, he was diagnosed with cancer!”
Growing up in Vietnam, I was incepted with a reverence for teachers. Few professions are as well respected. Every November 20 in Vietnam is Teacher Day, and children bring gifts and take their teachers out to show their appreciation. It’s as big as Mother’s Day is over here. Stories are sung about chalk dust falling from old Teacher’s beard as he slaves away, ruining his eyesight to impart knowledge to his young students, who vow to grow up to be good people who will never forget their teachers’ sacrifices. In Vietnam, there is a saying: “King, Teacher, Father,” which is the traditional hierarchy of power. If you’re a teacher, even your students’ parents address you as Teacher and tremble as they gaze upon you.
Sure, with so much deference, there are instances of abuse of power (“I said FRESH-SQUEEZED orange juice!”), but overall it works. Teachers still get paid crap, but at least they are held in high esteem as they stock up on ramen.
What do we have over here? The ridiculous saying, “Those who can’t do, teach.” Even worse are songs like “Hot for Teacher” by Van Halen and “I Love You Period” by Dan Baird, which reduce the archetype of the Teacher into an empty object for romantic obsession, which is just creepy for everyone.
Teachers are put more and more on the defensive, becoming increasingly discouraged and demoralized, and this will have severe consequences on the future of this country. This movement of “teacher accountability” and “teacher effectiveness” has perpetuated a cycle of blaming teachers for kids’ poor performance. Every day, Jameelah comes home with some sort of horrible story about what her kids are going through: “Today, a kid fainted because she was malnourished.” “Today, a kid was absent because his dad got arrested.” “Today, a kid’s parents joined the Tea Party.” How are teachers supposed to deal with stuff like that?
Considering all the extra time they put to prepare lessons, grade homework and tests, and do other stuff outside the classroom, teachers work more hours per year than anyone. Then they spend a whole lot of their own money for school supplies; I know because everywhere we go, Jameelah is constantly looking for stuff for her class: “Ooh, these little Japanese erasers will make perfect prizes for the class Treasure Box!”
To have idiots on message boards saying negative things about teachers is pretty asinine. If these attacks don’t let up, teachers might just get fed up and become apathetic, which would hurt the economy. The markers and small-colorful-sticker industries would tank, for example, driving up unemployment. Worse, they might move to other professions. Then there would be no one left to teach our kids. They’d grow up to be clueless and backward. They’d probably become politicians.
Look, an easy-to-remember website: www.Jaggednoodles.com.