Wednesday, October 14, 2015

What's Strong

At the beginning of the school year, the Superintendent of Schools exhorted us to "focus on what's strong, not what's wrong." I think people are aware of the many things that are strong about our schools. Expecting that things that are wrong get discussed openly, responded to promptly--and with respect--is the expectation of people who want to believe in the system. It's when people stop expecting this that you need to worry.

That would mean that people have given up.

I awoke today to this wonderful article by Lisa Philip of HoCo Times about my husband, who is a semifinalist for the Grammy Music Educator award. Surely here is something that's strong about our schools: our music program, from Pre-K in some schools through 12th grade. An article in the newspaper may highlight just one person, but he is a part of a much larger community of learning that makes what he does possible.

It's nice to be in the newspaper. I've been lucky to be covered twice in my capacity as a music specialist. Once for my RECC Music program, and once for my musical "Lunch Music" events at The Second Chance. (Howard Magazine, I can't find the link.) But while it's exciting to see one's name in print or one's picture in the paper, it's not the main thing.

For every piece you see in the newspaper, there are hundreds of teachers doing their jobs every day. We don't read about them but their work is incredibly valuable to our children and to our community. Our children are supported by these committed individuals and by the communities of learning that they create.

There is joy in teaching. And there are the tiny moments of sunlight when a student "gets it", or goes beyond what they thought they were capable of. There are the days when a colleague acknowledges your work, an administrator visits your class and enjoys it, a parent sends a note of thanks. For most, this is as close to an article in the paper as they will ever get. Much of the time it's enough.

A word of acknowledgement or praise is uplifting, but it doesn't pay the rent, of course. Teaching is their livelihood. They deserve the best compensation we can give them. And they deserve respect. Contrary to popular surveys that calculate engagement, the thing teachers want most and are getting the least these days is respect.

What's strong in our schools? Our teachers. So let's focus on them. Not necessarily with an article in the paper, but with what they really want and deserve: respect.


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