On May 16, let school bells ring – Henry Pankey

“Politicians need to be cautious, because this #Me Too teachers’ movement has spread like a California wildfire,” writes Henry Pankey, the Durham Public Schools 2000 Principal of the Year.
“Politicians need to be cautious, because this #Me Too teachers’ movement has spread like a California wildfire,” writes Henry Pankey, the Durham Public Schools 2000 Principal of the Year.

To say someone is just a teacher is like saying Superman is just Clark Kent. Teachers make all other professions possible.

It is time for the bashing and underpayment of teachers, despite the fact they perform Herculean duties, to end. Politicians have routinely overreached as they chronically bite the hands responsible for upward mobility and success.

Bureaucrats and elected officials acknowledge teachers’ love for students, but then unscrupulously use that affinity to shame educators into not complaining about reduced benefits, removal of tenure, and unwarranted recertifications every five years. Arbitrary modified health care and wage stagnation are heartbroken conversations confined to the teachers’ lounge, but not for public discourse. About 70 percent of powerful, elected officials are men, but 67 percent of teachers are female. Would things be different if most instructors were men?

Politicians need to be cautious, because this #MeToo teachers’ movement has spread like a California wildfire. Boys may well be boys, but the good ole boys’ network has finally met its formidable, unafraid match. Only in a 1960s “Twilight Zone” episode could we have imagined so many bodies pulsing with one heartbeat.

American educators are fed up with rich or egocentric men taking advantage of them. Teachers may be many things, but stupid they are not. They do not need a flow chart to tell them the cost of food, clothing, health care, housing and transportation is the same for everyone.

Educators are by nature nurturers. They are not renegades but they have been pushed to the brink by unfunded as mean spirited, brutish and harsh as Pharaoh’s orders to Moses to make bricks without straw or else.

May 16 signals teachers are no longer willing be complicit in their own mistreatment. They are no longer cowered into silence as those in authority control educators’ careers, economics and working conditions.

Cynical arguments about teachers’ short work days and long vacations ring hollow. Planning periods are not enough time to mark 100 papers a day and grammar-plagued essays. Summers are interrupted with mandatory staff development conferences.

Far too many school improvement experts who conduct workshops have never improved a school. PowerPoints do not automatically translate into improved classroom instruction or student achievement. Experienced, highly qualified educators are the best, respected and most inspiring teachers of teacher. Give them stipends to train their peers.

May 16 is about more than money. It is about children’s education, achievement and protecting their advocates who are teachers.

Labeling schools low performing hurts the teaching profession as well as staff morale. To say a school has failed stigmatizes educators as failures. Everyone wants to work each day in a profession that enables them to maintain pride, dignity and self-respect.

A core mission of teachers is to identify and foster genius (often sleeping in its embryonic state and unrecognized) in every child. In addition, educators must be parents, counselors and suppliers of what students need, be it a shoulder to cry on, a tissue for running noses or extra help after school.

A teacher’s classroom instruction is a love letter to students each day. Let teachers teach without confinement to standardized curriculum and high-stakes tests unrelated to 21st century skills needed for economic survival, innovations, research and careers.

Proclaim May 16, 2018, as the day when corporations, business people, faith-based communities, education institutions, political leaders, parents, teachers and students finally begin the unconditional commitment to excellence in education. Institutionalize a zero tolerance for failure beginning with resolute support of teachers.

Instructors create “pockets of excellence” in every school. Support of teachers is support of children. It must be action that includes fair pay, better working conditions and a reduction of unnecessary paper work. Cease tormenting one of America’s brightest, intelligent, unselfish, dedicated and creative professionals.

Educators have saved more lives than all the DC and Marvel comics’ superheroes combined. May 16, 2018, is a message for 2018, 2020, 2022 and 2024 elections. Today’s children will one day be analytical voters. Let’s give teachers the unswerving financial and hands-on support they have earned.

Do not give up on teachers, because they did not give up on us!

Henry J. Pankey author and education consultant, was Durham Public Schools principal of the year in 2000. He can be reaced at eaglehjp@aol.com