Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What do we do best as teachers? by Glen Brown

We inspire others. We influence and move people to action. We take a person’s potentiality and make it an actuality. We offer our help to others because of our compassion and our empathy, because of our humility and our dignity. We communicate truths because of our integrity. We never give up because of our moral responsibility towards one another and the importance of trust among individuals. We fight against all injustices. We understand; we discuss; we mediate, and we act. We do what is right and model our behavior for others. We hold ourselves accountable for what we do and what we believe is true. We set the example.

What are we as teachers? We are leaders, consultants, diagnosticians and evaluators; we are life-long learners; we are architects for the experiences of others. We are what we want to see in others: our idealism, our indomitable spirit, our commitment to human rights and to the creation of a better society. We are responsible, intrepid and just. We are one of last bastions of hope for a society driven by amoral envy, indifferent greed and partisan politics.

We are appalled by hypocrisy and lies, by incompetence, irresponsibility and cronyism. We are appalled by intentional faulty logic and the unethical scapegoating of others, by arrogance and self-interest, by prejudice and the injustices done to others. We are appalled by irrationality and indifference; therefore, we must stay united and fight not only for the rights of others but for our teaching profession. 

-Glen Brown


  1. Yes, I know your blog is true. The truth and what is true don't always meet as one. What is true today might not be the truth tomorrow. The truth is - we are not valued otherwise we would be treated differently, paid more, respected highly, and we would be making more of the financial decisions or at least have our voices heard. I challenge all the law makers; congressman, senators, representative, governors, and judges, to come to the school as substitute teachers for one month at a public school. I love my students. I have many who have very little, live with two or three other families, need shoes, clothes, and a safe environment. Public schools are stigmatized as badly as people with disabilities, the homeless, etc. Thank you for your beautiful post on what teachers do best! We truly embrace our school communities with love and compassion. I never give up. Can I trust there are people making great decisions for our public schools nationally. One more point being: Washington, DC public school districts are rated in what category of Top Schools?
    Robin Ruiz

  2. “…I would love to teach, but I will not spend another day under the expectations that I prepare every student for the increasing numbers of meaningless tests that take advantage of children for the sake of profit. I refuse to subject students to every ridiculous standardized test that the state and/or district thinks is important. I refuse to have my higher-level and deep-thinking lessons disrupted by meaningless assessments that do little more than increase stress among children and teachers, waste instructional time and resources, and attempt to guide young adolescents into narrow choices…

    “I would love to teach, but I will not spend another day wishing I had some time to plan my fantastic lessons because the county comes up with new and inventive ways to steal that time… I’m far enough behind in my own work that I will not spend another day wondering what menial, administrative task I will hear that I forgot to do next.

    “I would love to teach, but I will not spend another day in a district where my coworkers are both on autopilot and in survival mode. I am tired of hearing about the miracles my peers are expected to perform, and watching the districts do next to nothing to support or develop them. I haven’t seen real professional development since I got here. The development sessions I have seen are sloppy, shallow, and have no real means of evaluation or accountability.

    “I cannot stand to watch my coworkers being treated like untrustworthy slackers through the overbearing policies of this state, although they are the hardest working and most overloaded people I know. It is gut-wrenching to watch my district’s leadership tell us about the bad news and horrific changes coming towards us, then watch them shrug incompetently, and then tell us to work harder. I would love to teach, but I’m tired of my increasing and troublesome physical symptoms that come from all this frustration, stress, and sadness.

    “Finally, I would love to teach, but I’m truly angry that parents put so much stress, fear, and anticipation into their kids’ heads to achieve a meaningless numeric grade that is inconsequential to their future needs, especially since their children’s teachers are being cowed into meeting expectations and standards that are not conducive to their children’s futures…” -A veteran seventh-grade language arts teacher in Frederick, Maryland.

  3. “…As a teacher, you can see what your perfect classroom should look like. You know all the work you should be doing developing lessons, creating rich assignments, covering a broad swath of material, providing deep and wide assessments and using them to provide valuable feedback. Plus, of course, being able to drop it all on a moment’s notice when a teachable moment suddenly announces itself.

    “You can see all this, but you can also do the math. 150 papers about colonial economic developments, at fifteen minutes each for a through reading and thoughtful response equals 37 hours. Designing six lessons a day for five days a week at a superhumanly swift five minutes per lesson equals two and a half hours (that’s a minimum).

    “Quizzes to assess how students stand so that you can design a refresher unit to bring them up to speed (five minutes each to grade). You know that the quickest assessments to give and score (multiple choice, true/false) provide the least useful data; the best assessments are almost always essays, but they take hours to grade. You know about the power of one-on-one conferencing with students, but that takes a whole week of class time…

    “Teaching (and, in fairness, a few other service professions as well) is a ten-gallon bucket in which teachers are expected to carry fifteen gallons of stuff, and so they make choices (if they refuse to choose, things just spill anyway). And society is always trying to add more to the bucket. Need a new public health program? Let schools do it. People in this country don’t seem to understand some issue? Pass a law saying schools have to explain it. (And no—pre-packaged materials don’t really help, because teachers still have to dig into those and customize them for their own classes.) The pandemic has exacerbated the situation.

    “Teachers, you are now required to be able to run both in-person and on-line classes. Create packets for students who can’t do either. Negotiate mask and/or anti-mask policies with parents and colleagues. Take care of the social and mental strains that students are experiencing.

    “Manage the safety of your classroom even as your district tells you that many pandemic safety measures will not be taken in your district; maintain social distancing with 30 students in your classroom. Also, there are some people outside who would like to yell at you about this week’s major controversy. And here’s a new list of things you aren’t allowed to teach, or are required to teach, maybe…” -Peter Greene.

  4. Teachers are the mainstay of a democratic society.