Friday, July 15, 2016

Why Does ProJo Villify Teachers?

The front page of the Providence Journal ran an awful headline about teachers in Rhode Island.  Once again painting us with one swoop while having no regard for the hard work we do each and every day.  I instantly wrote a letter to the editor- a much shorter version of what is below.  I know many teachers who were outraged at the article, yet still two weeks later-not one letter has been printed showing our side of things.  Although I don't have proof that other people wrote to support teachers, I am fairly positive someone did.  They did post an op ed that once again said teachers are what is wrong with the public school system.

So here is my (long form) version of the letter that Projo obviously doesn't want to publish as it turns the mirror on something that we don't discuss enough...

I’m sure I am one of many writing in response to your front page article entitled “Absent teachers; RI worst in region.”  Like many who have undoubtedly written, I am a teacher.  It is a job I love.  I never feel the approaching dread of a Monday, because it means I can see my students again, and hear about their weekends.  I never complain about the days I am at school until very late (7pm some days) because no matter what the work has to get done, after all I have 80 students counting on me.  I never complain about the pay, because I’m not there for the income, it’s the outcome.  I’m writing to ask you to raise your standards as a paper.  Frequently, the ProJo is seen as bashing teachers, and never showing the positive.  And it’s out there, just ask WJAR who frequently shines a well-deserved spotlight on teachers, or the Providence Teachers Union who through their campaign of #PTUPositivity, their members hear of all the great things happening in our Providence schools.  Yet, the ProJo feels free to write inflammatory headlines in the clickbait fashion we see littered throughout our social media feeds.  We expect more of a newspaper.
You wouldn’t write this headline about firefighters.  Why not?  They save lives.
You wouldn’t write this headline about the police.  Why not?  They save lives.
You wouldn’t write this headline about nurses.  Why not?  They save lives.
You wouldn’t write this headline about doctors.  Why not?  They save lives.
You shouldn’t write this headline about teachers.  Why?  They too save lives.
Now I am sure you are shaking your head thinking that this is yet another teacher employing hyperbole to get her point across.  In response I would ask you to visit my classroom those last few days of school.  Finals are over, at that point if you’re failing there is nothing you can do to bring that grade up.  Many students don’t show up.  Last month, I witnessed many students show up to school these last two days.  They would show up to an un-air conditioned, stuffy building.  School lunch was reduced to sandwiches, and not even movies could be shown as we all handed in our technology.  So why show up?  Because teachers save lives.  For some students, the only words of encouragement they receive is Monday-Friday in their teacher’s classrooms.  We continually tell our students that they’re good enough, and they’re worth it.  And before the naysayers remark that I only feel this way because I am fortunate enough to work in the city, let me tell you how teachers saved my life.
On paper, I was charmed.  Skinny white girl in the Scituate school system, both parents still married, extended family that I would see weekly.  Access to technology.  (And this was in the nineties!)  It doesn’t get much more privileged than that.  However I grew up with one parent telling me that education was important, and the other telling me to rely on my looks.  One parent who would beam with pride if I dared to say I liked math, one asking me what was wrong with me.  One who would pull me out of school based on my childish whims, one parent who worked night so this was done without his knowledge.  Sadly, as with many girls, the words of my mother rang true for me; I couldn’t excel at math, college wasn’t a priority.  In my mind I wasn’t good at anything, and I certainly wasn’t smart enough. 
Miss Amanda Browne who first told me that not only could I write, but that I should.  Sure, it was 5th grade and my stories were probably horrible, but she told me that it could be done.  Fast forward to 10th grade and Mrs. Carol Mumford changed my life.  Not only did she say that I could write, that I had talents to offer the world, but she taught me that love, compassion, and free thought belonged in the classroom.  I bring Mrs. Mumford’s lessons with me every day I open my classroom door and greet my students.

I want you to think about your own schooling.  Surely there was a teacher that saved you.  That told you that yes you are worth it, that you could make your mark on the world.  I ask that you stop your clickbait worthy articles, not for me but for the teachers that saved my life.  Not for the thousands of hardworking teachers in our beautiful state, but for the teachers that saved you.  The teachers that told you that you were worth it.  Live up to their standards, because you’re worth it.

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