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An Open Letter to America’s Teachers

March 1, 2011

If America was one of your students, you would keep us after school for a talk. “You’ve been very disrespectful” you would start. And you’d be right. We have spent , as a nation, several years disrespecting your value to us. Some of our people, some with loud mouths and smaller wits, have claimed you work seven hour days.

You would collectively laugh at that notion if you had the strength to do so. You get there before the students arrive and leave long after they leave. On your way home, you get text messages from half a dozen of them, crying the woes about tomorrow’s test or yesterday’s missed assignments. When you get home, your family tells you of the three parents who phoned and the Principal’s secretary who called to remind you of a Senior Prom promotion committee meeting that starts in a half hour. When that meeting ends (it was supposed to be an hour long and creeped along for three), you come home and remember you have to grade yesterday’s quizzes so the football team can know which athletes can still stay on the team.

Our nation claims that you are the reason we can’t balance any of our state budgets. If it wasn’t for your crazy unions and their demands, we could lay off half of you and pay you a third of what you’re getting now. After all, you only work five days a week, seven hours a day and get all summer off. You see cities agreeing to spend a half billion dollars on sports arenas and you had to email your kids’ parents to see if any of them could donate pencils and writing pads for your kids.

All summer off? You would be lucky if you could afford that. Your teaching credential demands you spend half the summer taking Continuing Education credits and the other half of the summer you teach driver’s ed or help with the summer basketball league or the church Vacation Bible School because you had the “free time that no one else had.” And you did it gladly and willingly because even though pundits paint you as heartless, money-grubbing problem-makers, you really do love those kids. You talk to more gang members than the police, more pregnant girls than the clinic, identify learning disabilities before parents, doctors or psychologists do, counsel more broken hearts, encourage more broken dreams and ponder about another broken window in your car.

We haven’t given you a raise in years, we’ve doubled your class size, we’ve eliminated your librarians, nurses, janitors, psychologists, bus drivers, aids, secretaries, vice-principals and sports coaches – and then we tell you it’s your fault our kids aren’t learning. We force you by law to make our kids learn the answers to a test we wrote, that you don’t agree with, instead of the things we originally hired you to teach. Then we encourage charter schools and private schools to cherry-pick the best-performing students, leaving you with, among the remaining students, those who are ready to drop out, who are prepared to knife you, who haven’t spoken ten words of English in their lives –  and then we criticize you when you mutter under your breath.

Yes, Mr. and Ms. Teacher, we as a nation deserve detention. We deserve to be held back another year until we get this right. We deserve the strap and we deserve the report card you would love to give us. But instead, I’m going to give you something.

A BIG THANK YOU FOR DOING YOUR BEST IN THE HARDEST CONDITIONS WE COULD EVER DEVISE. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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