OUR POSITION: We can’t afford to lose teachers to today’s demands and challenges that go far beyond the classroom.
Never in the history of our nation have teachers come under the scrutiny they face now, nor have they faced the current dangers and challenges of their profession. Yet, to their credit, a huge majority continue to be true to their mission to educate our children even at wages that are usually inadequate to even buy a home in today’s market.
The dangers are quite clear. Teachers gunned down doing their job by unhinged gunmen whose only purpose is to bring mayhem on others.
The challenges are many.
Once, the biggest concern was standardized tests which they were charged with making sure their students performed well on. In some states, Florida included until recently, a bad grade on those tests could mean less money for the school and a humiliating stamp of failure for the entire staff to bear.
Covid-19 increased the dangers and the challenges. Whether or not to wear masks became a national and state controversy that put teachers — some approaching an age deemed extremely vulnerable to the virus — in the middle.
And the controversy has now extended to new extremes after Florida passed its Parental Rights in Education bill that outlines how teachers can discuss certain sexual topics to their youngest students. The law opens the door for punishment for the school and/or the teacher if it is proven they engaged in conversations that are outlawed in the legislation.
In Charlotte County recently, Murdock Middle School teacher Deven Seibert became the target of scorn and criticism by parents when she brought some of her students to a School Board meeting to speak about that bill, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by its critics.
The students were members of the school’s Gay Straight Alliance. They told board members they feared the bill would create other laws that would infringe on the rights of LGBTQ students.
It wasn’t the first time Seibert had accompanied students to a board meeting. But this time there were repercussions as adults surrounded the students after the meeting, questioning them and berating them. Seibert stepped in to deescalate the situation, admonishing the adults that “these are children.”
Seibert got strong support from School Board members and other colleagues. But the incident obviously had an impact. Just last week she announced she was leaving the teaching profession — at least for now.
“Teaching is getting harder and harder; it’s not worth it, it just isn’t. I can be less stressed doing something else,” she said.
Seibert said too many people, parents or otherwise, don’t get involved in helping schools but are quick to criticize, especially in a time when political-fueled rhetoric seems to overwhelm any topic or action.
In a Daily Sun story, Seibert said Murdock Middle School is a Title One school, meaning it receives federal funds for free breakfasts and lunches because of so many students who live in poverty.
“We (teachers) buy the paper; we buy the pencils; we buy pizza for the class,” she said.
Seibert said of her fellow teachers, “we put our heart and soul in a Title 1 school.”
Hearts and souls are just not enough sometimes. But for teachers like those in Parkland, Florida and Uvalde, Texas, they can say they put their lives on the line — and lost.
We must do a better job of appreciating and supporting our teachers. It’s not an easy job and no one is getting rich doing it.
Image Credits: Teacher with students, in a classroom. Credit: Getty Images.