Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) was in the capital of Florida for the huge teachers’ rally that caught wind in the news cycle across the nation. He wasn’t on the dais or the program, but if he was, here is the speech that would have followed the outstanding speakers. In fact, it was a whirlwind, but everyone who has ever been to a dance knows that the fast numbers with dancers twirling across the floor must be followed by a slow dance, one that allows the attendees, slightly or more than slightly sweaty, to catch their breath.
So many great speeches from those across the country to support us. But now, let’s take a minute to slow down, catch our breath, and unpack what’s going on.
First, let’s consider the message sent by Matthew Mears, in which he concluded that this action by teachers, conducted legally under their bargained contracts, in which every active teacher attending this rally took personal leave and arranged for substitute coverage for their classes, was ‘unacceptable’ because it meant a day of learning would be lost for students.
Matthew Mears, I applaud you. Wait, wait, don’t jeer.
Yes, I applaud you because you are making two essential points in your message, unintentionally, I am sure.
First, you are saying that as hard as substitute teachers try, they cannot replace us. We are IRREPLACEABLE.
And second, in saying that learning will not take place unless we teachers are in our classrooms, you are recognizing that we have VALUE.
We provide something for the children of Florida that no one else can. You need us and WE HAVE VALUE.
And you know what? In this capitalist-worshipping society that we live in? That means, Tallahassee, that means Governor DeSantis, that means Commissioner Corcoran, and Speaker Oliva, Senate President Galvano, Senator Diaz, and so many others, …
YOU HAVE TO PAY FOR IT.
You could have said put the kids on computer all day. I-Ready or a comparable program, that will do the job.
But you didn’t. You said it was unacceptable for teachers to take a day off. You have admitted to all that we have VALUE.
And if we have VALUE, you have to pay for it.
YOU HAVE TO PAY FOR IT.
You’d pay for a brain surgeon if your grandchild had a tumor. You’d pay for the years put into medical school, internships, residencies, and experience. You’d want the best and you would pay for it.
Art lessons? Piano or music? Personal coaches for that 8-year old athlete you think is going to be a natural for the NBA or NFL? You happily shell out for them.
A teacher? What do we have that you need us in the classrooms of Florida rather than offering an extra dime an hour to the people in the window of the fast food drive-through?
We know pedagogy. We spent years paying college tuition to sit in classrooms studying the theories of Piaget, Kohl, Vygotsky, Skinner, Bloom, Gardner, Bruner, and so many others so that we know how children learn. Hiring in someone with content knowledge but no idea of pedagogy will be a disaster <cough, cough> the adjunct teacher program is doomed to failure … then we spent half a year under a mentor in a classroom to see how it works in practice …
We have expertise. We have knowledge. That’s why a vast pole barn filled with computer stations and low-wage monitors is not an educational solution you embrace.
We know how children learn. You need us. We have VALUE and YOU HAVE TO PAY FOR IT.
Our craft is honed over years. The teacher of 5 years is nothing like the rookie starting out. And we keep learning, innovating, and improving our practice. We don’t stop just as a doctor doesn’t stop reading journals, attending professional conferences, and bringing new knowledge to the treatment of patients. The only difference is that a doctor can deduct his continuing learning from his fees before calculating his taxes.
As teachers, we can’t. Yet we continue to learn and pursue opportunities to make our best better.
That 5-year teacher is nothing like the teacher you see at 15 years. Just like that doctor. The longer she practices, the more knowledge she builds.
Experience adds VALUE. If you want it, legislators, you have to PAY FOR IT.
Yes, indeed. Teachers have VALUE and the longer we teach, the more value we have.
Florida, you have to pay for it.
All you teachers, sing with Beyonce: Put a ring on it, Florida. (Pay us what we’re worth!)