Let's make 2020 the year of the teacher

It’s a new year—2020. Let’s make it the year of the teacher!

Let’s put up banners at the top of Cedar Hill, up and down Lee and Coventry and all along Taylor and Noble roads, declaring our respect for teachers and our gratitude for their important work.

Students are deeply affected by these adults who, while not family, are intimately involved in their lives. Our community is also deeply affected by these professionals who work valiantly to realize our aspirations for our youth and to prepare them to be wise voters and leaders. While the rest of us are sequestered for the most part from other people’s children, teachers spend every day with the young people of our community. They are the front line of educational opportunity.

We expect teachers to know each student in their care, hold high aspirations for them, treat them with patience and kindness, be firm but fair, find their strengths and build on them, create an engaging and safe environment, honor the children's emotions and nurture their social development, develop their skills and unique minds, and create great citizens and workers.

It’s a tall order.

Sadly, teachers are too frequently blamed for social inequality and demonized for test scores. People who don’t know them, and don’t value our precious public-school system, make judgments from afar. 

Public education, and the teachers who do this glorious work, are under attack. Let’s defend them. Let’s express our commitment to public education by demonstrating our confidence in our educators. Reject testing as a measure of education quality.

We want children to love learning and to keep learning as the world around them changes. For teachers to deliver this outcome, they need to be free to teach without fear of unfair consequences. When we trust teachers, see them as allies, value their contribution to child development in all of its forms, and address legitimate problems, they will do their best to give us what we need.

Let’s challenge the test-and-blame narrative that privatizers use, for the benefit of an unaccountable private and profitable alternative, to justify disinvestment in public schools. Test-based accountability marginalizes teachers and teaching and makes the classroom a toxic place for children. Let’s say no to testing and yes to teachers and learning!

In today’s disheartening anti-public-school environment, support for teachers is not meant only for the educators. Supporting our teachers is also a way to affirm to each other our shared commitment to public education. Our voices need to be loud and clear. A lot is at stake!

In the year of the teacher we will affirm our public schools by building consensus around the pro-teacher approach to public education. Support for teachers will be a required qualification for those seeking legislative office, and all education legislation will recognize the importance of teachers. 

School reformers tried to shut down the teacher voice when they started to attack the public system. They called any teacher who challenged “accountability” an apologist. It worked for a while, but not anymore. I appreciate that, in the venues where I have advocated for public education, teachers are always present. They know why it matters.

It has been teachers’ unions all over the country who have been the vanguard of resistance to harmful public policy. They know how it hurts their students. They know the reality. They are allies for the common good—not just for their own good.

While their jobs are at stake, so is our future, and teachers are protecting our democracy. Let’s join with them by holding them up as the invaluable resource that they are.

Susie Kaeser

Susie Kaeser is a 40-year resident of Cleveland Heights and the former director of Reaching Heights. She is active in the Heights Coalition for Public Education and the League of Women Voters.

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Volume 13, Issue 1, Posted 9:16 AM, 01.03.2020