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A Look Through Educators’ Eyes

USA Today spent a day with 15 teachers to learn pressures, frustrations
Science educator Rebecca Garelli is one of the lead organizers of Arizona Educators United. Photo by Tom Tingle, The Arizona Republic via USA TODAY Network

The widespread educator uprisings across the nation earlier this year—inspiring acts of solidarity coined the “Educator Spring”—drew national attention to the undervalued state of public education and the lack of resources and support for the people who teach our students every day. The effects of teacher strikes in places like West Virginia, Arizona and Oklahoma are already being felt throughout the country, from  increased public support for striking teachers to a rebuke of elected officials who opposed teachers and public ed to a  historic number of educators running for election this November.

Following the courageous acts of the Educator Spring and a renewed interest in the way our country funds, supports and respects public education and the people who make it happen, USA Today reporters spent a day with educators to illustrate just what a “normal” day looks like. From Detroit to Phoenix and 13 other communities in between, teachers shared a typical day of frustrations, pressures and hard-earned victories. The reporters found that these educators were worried about a lot more than low pay.

“They feel misunderstood, unheard and, above all, disrespected. That disrespect comes from many sources: parents who are uninvolved or too involved; government mandates that dictate how, and to what measures, teachers must teach; state school budgets that have never recovered from Great Recession cuts, leading to inadequately prepared teachers and inadequately supplied classrooms.”

Spanish teacher Luis Martinez was one of those shadowed by a reporter. Ironically, the Coachella Valley Teachers Association member did not teach either of his Spanish classes at a remote desert high school that day because he had to fill in for a security officer who was out.

The piece is a stark reminder of the reality faced by educators in public schools all over the country, and the need for a renewed respect and investment in American public education. Whether polling suggesting growing support for educators will translate into real change will be more evident after the November election (Vote Tony Thurmond for State Superintendent!) and in how the public backs and embraces ongoing teachers’ struggles, such as with UTLA and Los Angeles Unified where an out-of-touch millionaire superintendent refuses to adequately support students and the educators who teach them.

The USA Today story says the jury is still out on that:

“Teachers hold our hands and wipe our noses, tell us we can be more than we are, maybe more than we think we can be.

In return, we tell pollsters that they’re underpaid, without being sure what they actually make; that we endorse collective bargaining, yet often resist higher taxes; that we even support their right to strike, preferably in someone else’s district.

And so a day with American public school teachers ends with this irony: These people, whom opinion polls show to be among the nation’s most respected, feel disrespected.”

Featured photo of Detroit teacher Felecia Branch courtesy Mandi Wright, Detroit Free Press via USA TODAY Network

 

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