Monday, April 23, 2007

"No, Thank You"

It was the night I was celebrating my commitment to teaching.

The closest that educators come to the Academy Awards is a graduation ceremony. Going up to collect the diploma is equivalent to walking the red carpet. Shaking hands with the dean of the university is an interview with Joan Rivers. It may not be glamorous but it is all we've got.

And we work hard for our few moments in the sun. Attending classes after a full day of teaching, spending the weekends writing papers, conducting ongoing research while our friends are out enjoying a late afternoon brunch, scooping up items or collecting 'garbage' because it has a purpose for that project the students are creating, it's all part of being a teacher/researcher. It is who we are, every minute of every day.

The lifestyle does not come with much respect from those with political power but it does carry a certain cache with some parents and students. Well, on the night of my certificate ceremony celebrating the completion of the Hello Friend/Ennis William Cosby scholarship program for Young Readers at Risk, at which may I add, I gave a speech detailing how teaching was my bliss, that I cherished how blessed I was to have found the perfect match, the supreme career -- on that night I was approached by a woman who offered me a scholarship to become a school principal.


Was she not paying attention?

She was taking the perspective that education is a business and who can blame her? When we have Boston-born Republican businessman-turned-political Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg espousing his agenda this comes as no surprise. In his world one works their way up the ranks to obtain wealth and power. The bottom line is the almighty dollar, what can I do for ME? This is NOT the way things operate in education.

Mr. Bloomberg has alienated many parents who feel excluded from influencing decisions about the system. “His problem all along has been a lack of buy-in with the stakeholders of the system: parents, teachers and principals,” said Tim Johnson, chairman of the Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Council, a parent group. Saying that an election every four years “is not enough to check and balance a mayor, especially a mayor with billions of dollars,” Mr. Johnson added that the parents “are more frustrated than ever,” especially given the several reorganizations undertaken by Mr. Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel I. Klein. (The New York Times, September 20, 2006)

It is all about perspective. Mayor Bloomberg or Chancellor Klein have outright disdain for teachers, absolutely no respect. I truly think this would change if they would honestly commit one week to planning, managing and teaching in a New York City Public School. How wonderful if these businessmen would allow themselves to open their minds to 'hear' what dedicated educators around the city have to tell them.

I am a teacher. I want to teach. I do not want to 'move up' to obtain more power and wealth if that takes me out of the classroom. I do not see my position as a stepping stone. I am happy to do what I do. If I wanted to be in business I would have done that. I assure you that with my education and dedication I could be raking in the bucks, but I would not be fulfilled doing that.

Therefore, on the night of my certificate ceremony I simply responded to this woman with --

"No, thank you!".


Brendan said...

Education is the enemy of power. Propaganda masquerading as education is its friend. When they can control the content of the message, politicians are always for education. But teaching children to develop their own power of self-inquiry is anathema to the state. This often puts real teachers and politicians at direct odds with one another.

Joy said...

You go, baby! Some people will never 'get it'. They see money or 'social status' as the only reason to do anything. Some of us know that there is more to being human than making $$$. "No thank you" is right! :)

d. chedwick bryant said...

Wow, I can relate to this--My neighbor was yelling at her kids telling them about the important very high paying job she gave up to have them and be a mom--a job that she always brags about, a job that had her working 60+ hours a week, a slave to her bosses every whim--she didn't "get it" when she worked like a slave and she didn't "get it" when she gave it up, and now she's teaching her kids that high pay is the only way to BE somebody.She will never get it.

J. David Zacko-Smith said...

What a great post and a great blog! Educators rule (my mom taught for 30 years, and I'm finishing my doctorate in education myself) - I have a lot of respect for you and for your dedication to others!

J. David Zacko-Smith said...

P.S. - you're cute, too!

Eddie said...


Reya Mellicker said...

Teachers should be paid zillions of dollars, because they are part of creating the future.

In addition to education, we Americans have no respect for parenting and don't care much for children either.

I was reading about the Danes and how happy they are. They're given a year of maternity leave (both parents) that they can take any time they want, spread out over years if that works for them, and they're paid 90% of their salary. Danish schools are sparkling clean, their teachers are well paid.

No wonder they're so happy!


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