Hedreich Nichols

I’m A Teacher, You’re A Teacher…

Over the past few weeks, I have awakened daily to the news of new humans in the classroom. Now, if you’ve taught a while, you’ll remember when “new humans in the classroom” meant meeting a fresh-faced new group in August or September of each year. Now, it means new humans teaching in the classrooms. Well, teaching is relative. As long as the children are attended, we’re good. Hey Rick Grimes, got a few minutes??

Education: In The Beginning

You see, when free public education was conceived centuries ago, it was designed to cement a unified version of American pride and way of life after the Revolutionary War. Later, after the industrial revolution and, more importantly, after women entered the workforce in large numbers, it evolved as a cost effective way to provide social services and keep our GDP growing. 

Under the flag of education we have designed a system that cares for, feeds, assesses and entertains students for most of the waking day while parents work. Working parents means more money flows into and through the economy. Or at least, that’s how it was before COVID. After shut downs crippled and even killed off businesses, the right people must have cried foul: Schools MUST be kept open at any cost. Of course, “virtual learning doesn’t work” was the tagline. ‘Learning loss’, especially ‘in our most vulnerable populations’ was a big problem. Quality learning face to face with teachers, that’s what we needed to do for our kids.

GDP Maintenance vs. Learning Loss Mitigation

Fast forward, more COVID, so much so that schools are suddenly closing on an emergency rolling basis. And in order to prohibit that? Creative thinkers everywhere are getting warm bodies into classrooms to keep schools open. The learning loss needs of fall have given way to the economic needs of winter and the other Big Lie is now lain bare. Learning loss is not and never was the real concern. 

The US does not have the number 1 GDP in the world for no reason. We have been ruthless in prioritizing profit, this is no different. Schools are necessary to the economy. Now you, as a teacher, are most likely in this job for the kids. And if you really want the best for them, here are three things you need to do THIS WEEK to prioritize academic needs:

  1. PRIORITIZE VALUING THEIR TEACHER. Decide that if anyone can stand in your class to teach and get bonuses and special permissions, you deserve bonuses and special permissions too. Get together with other teachers and decide what kinds of monetary and non-monetary bonuses would best support the valuable work you do. 
  2. Stop giving your employer money. If you’re working 10+ hours more than your contract calls for, you’re investing in a system that does not value prioritizing you or education. Make needed changes, start here with the 40h teacher work week. The information on Jennifer Gonzales’ podcast is a good beginning.
  3. Write your school board members and show up to meetings. Use your voice, do your research and vote in local elections. Better yet, run for office. If that’s not something you want to do, campaign for a teacher who will.

Mostly, we have work to do. Our students need more resources than we can give and it’s time that education gets a bigger slice of the economic pie. Valuing the job you do is a big part of that.  Not only are you an educator, you are an essential part of the largest GDP in the world. Start valuing yourself, and ensure that others do too.

Note: This OpEd is designed as a thought provoking, rather than research based, informative article