Why I applaud teachers

It appears that judging others has become our national pastime. And when the national discussion turns to public education, success or failure, high scores or low ones have to be attributed to someone. And while there are a multitude of factors that lead to students (a.) not being prepared to enter kindergarten, (b.) not knowing basic vocabulary, (c.) not knowing how to play with others, and (d.) not respecting authority figures, we have to blame someone (that’s what we do in today’s culture) so we blame teachers. Well, I for one applaud teachers.

I don’t believe teachers are the problem at all. I believe the vast majority of teachers are hard-working people dedicated to helping children grow into responsible adults. The biggest problem is, most people don’t know what teachers are required to do in a day to teach school. Teachers today still hear comments like “it must be nice to have three months off each summer.” Or “it must be great to leave work at 3:30 p.m. each day.” Or “you sure get paid a lot for working just nine months each year.”

Well, as the old saying goes “no one should judge another person until they walk in their shoes.” And I certainly believe no one should talk disparagingly about teachers until they visit a classroom for a day and understand what teachers do to try and help our nation’s children grow into responsible adults.

I challenge you to read the following example of what it’s like to be a teacher in today’s schools.I’ve confirmed its accuracy with my own eyes, and in visiting schools in the area. (I’ve also volunteered in my wife’s first grade classroom.) The simple truth is, it’s just not easy being a teacher in today’s schools.

Have you heard about the next planned “Survivor” show?

Three businessmen and three businesswomen will be dropped into an elementary school classroom for 6 weeks. Each business person will be provided with a copy of his/her school district’s curriculum, and a class of 28 students. Each class will have five learning-disabled children, three with A.D.D., one gifted child, and two who speak limited English. Three will be labeled with severe behavior problems. Each business person must complete lesson plans at least 3 days in advance with annotations for curriculum objectives and modify, organize, or create materials accordingly. They will be required to teach students, handle misconduct, implement technology, document attendance, write referrals, correct homework, make bulletin boards, compute grades, complete report cards, document benchmarks, communicate with parents, and arrange parent conferences. They must also supervise recess and monitor the hallways.

In addition, they will complete drills for fire, tornados, and shooting attacks. They must attend workshops, (100 hours), faculty meetings, union meetings, and attend curriculum development meetings. They must also tutor those students who are behind and strive to get their two non-English speaking children proficient enough to take the MAP and T-CAP tests. If they are sick or having a bad day they must not let it show. Each day they must incorporate reading, writing, math, science, and social studies into the program. They must maintain discipline andprovide an educationally stimulating environment at all times.

The business people will only have access to the golf course on the weekends, but on their new salary they will not be able to afford it anyway. There will be no access to vendors who want to take them out to lunch, and lunch will be limited to 25 minutes. On days when they do not have recess duty, the business people will be permitted to use the staff restroom as long as another survival candidate is supervising their class. They will be provided with two 40-minute planning periods per week while their students are at specials. If the copier is operable, they may make copies of necessary materials at this time. The business people must continually advance their education on their own time and pay for this advanced training themselves. This can be accomplished by moonlighting at a second job or marrying someone with money.

The winner will be allowed to return to his or her job.

Visit, and volunteer, to see what it’s like to be a teacher in today’s classrooms. And then write a “thank you” note to all the teachers, thanking them for their hard world and dedication. They don’t hear that very much, but they need to — it will encourage them to teach another day.

Rick Carpenter is the pastor at the United Methodist Church in Dolores and the First United Methodist Church in Dove Creek.