If you are my age (born in 1950), then you’re probably familiar with the hit song “It’s My Party” by Lesley Gore, a ’60’s teen star of recording fame. “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to, cry if I want to, cry if I want to. You would cry too, if it happened to you.” Theme relevant to teenage angst, easy to sing, and I give it a “ten” because you can dance to it.
Gore’s rendition, produced by Quincy Jones (of all people–amazing what you discover on Wikipedia) was an instant hit in the US and in Britain. Interesting tale in the Wikipedia article of Jones-Spector (as in the infamous Phil) competition to produce this song. Turns out that “It’s My Party” was Jones’s first hit single!
I’m working on a song parody based on that hit: “It’s my classroom, and I’ll teach if I want to, teach like I want to, teach when I want to. You would teach too, if it was left up to you.” More on that at another time.
Yesterday, on the Washington Post’s award-winning blog site, The Answer Sheet–moderated by Valerie Strauss–was a teacher-affirming post by Horace B. Lucido, a retired physics instructor, author and educational consultant, and a founding member of Educators and Parents Against Testing Abuse.
This post is well worth your time to read and cogitate–whether you’re a teacher or other education professional, or an interested community member. I have been teaching for a very long time. This is my 39th year in the profession.
As a new 4th grade teacher back in 1972, I remember feeling amazement that any parent would listen to me, ask my advice, and value my suggestions regarding their child’s strengths and weaknesses, school progress, needs, our shared goals, etc. But, they did. Why would they seek my opinion or trust the judgment of a 22 year old woman who was not yet a parent herself?
Simple–because I was a teacher. I was Jimmy’s teacher. I was uniformly respected and recognized as someone who was trained, who understood child development, who had spent time with children, who cared about their child, and who could do something they found regularly frustrating. I was the professional in the room. I could actually get their child to sit down, listen, and follow directions in order to learn to read and do basic arithmetic. At home, Suzy would fuss and cry if Mom tried to practice multiplication–“That’s not the way Mrs. Jenner does it.” [I know all about this firsthand–I got my come-uppance twenty years later when attempting to work with my own children at home. Trust me: Teachers’ children are no different than yours–they’re impossible in the evening. Crying was regular event–I used to send us both to our rooms.]
Anyway—back to the article in The Answer Sheet. Horace Lucido’s claim is that teachers have lost that loving feeling. Gone are the days of respect and honor for the profession of teaching. My colleagues and I pretty much agree with Lucido’s observations—teachers are the new used car salesmen or dog catchers. [No disrespect intended for those necessary occupations.] Teachers are pretty much seen as any or all of the following: unproductive, ineffective, inefficient, lazy, unmotivated, ill-prepared, dumb, and even dangerous to the well-being and future of the United States of America. Of course, in most cases, it’s not my kid’s teacher(s). It is the rest of those teachers—the ones over there. At the same time, everyone has a teacher horror story to recount. Just like they know all about a bad experience with a police officer or a dentist or a doctor or a hospital or ____(you fill in the blank). However, all of those people and institutions are not being mocked and derided by every Tom, Dick, and Harry in the press or on Fox News. “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” SHUT UP!
And as for teaching? Oh, boy. Teaching is portrayed as the lowliest of jobs—the Rodney Dangerfield of career choices. Only for the lonely. Only for the disaffected. Only for the folks who can’t make it in a really good job. Many teaching colleagues have decided that they can no longer recommend teaching to their own children. What a strange and sad turn of events.
I love teaching. I love being with other peoples’ children. I love working with parents to create a successful experience for their child. I love working with my teammates and others so that all kids in my classes can learn important science concepts, can practice skills and strategies to help them continue to “learn how to learn”, can make genuine progress and can look forward to a bright school future. I hate what has been happening to teachers. I hate the way teachers and teaching are misrepresented and maligned. I thank God for people like Valerie Strauss and Horace Lucido who care enough to speak out and speak up for children and teachers.
My favorite part of Lucido’s piece: “If we want the best for our students, then we need to have the best for our teachers.” That includes respect and trust.