“Those who can teach. Those who can’t make laws about teaching.”This is a motto that makes its rounds around social media whenever a politician or philanthropist develops a plan that will not only cure schools of all the social ills in society, but will finally get teachers to do “their job”. As teachers, we chuckle and “high five” one another and then go on with our day educating the youth of today. When I was growing up in the 80s, teachers were revered and no one would dare openly speak ill of them- even if we had a good reason. The proverbial rule in my house was the teacher was right- even when they were not.
Fast forward to 2018 and there’s a growing wave of subsets of human beings who enjoy- somewhat even revel- in going online and openly harassing, bashing and downright verbally assaulting teachers. To add fuel to the burning fire teachers have started to find their voice and marching to demand higher wages. In a recent survey conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 78 percent of Americans say teachers in this country are underpaid, but fewer approve of walkouts by teachers to demand pay raises and increased school funding.
Last week, we experienced this vitriol when we decided to post the Time Magazine* article on our Facebook page that documented 16 stories of teaching surviving to live off their teaching income. The article was powerful because for once people saw several stories about the constant struggle of teachers trying to make a living. As soon as we posted the article, we received “likes” and comments from teachers and their experiences of living paycheck to paycheck.
However, thirty minutes after posting the link, we started to receive those messages. Some of them were just mean, but quickly they turned from mean to outright threatening. Here’s some that we received:
“No one asked u 2 be a teacher. Quit if you don’t like it. ” -John K.
“Bulls**t all of my teachers drove luxury cars.I say get off your ass and work harder” Adam S.
“Snowflakes!” Landon K.
“Learn to budget. My parents were teachers and raised two kids on a teaching salary. Maybe if you stopped spending all of your money you wouldn’t be in that situation. ” John P.
“Shut up idiot.” Adam L.
“If teachers weren’t the literally the mouthpiece of liberal garbage they wouldn’t be going through this.” Sam K.
“Garbage.” Henry S.
Underlying all of the comments seemed to not only be a deep resentment of teachers but a hatred that seemed to rear it’s ugly head as soon as teachers want a livable wage. As the comments kept coming in, I quickly came to the conclusion that people who bash teachers are in the running to being some of the worst people on earth. Of course, this statement is dramatic, but it’s Sunday evening and I’m up trying to finish some work for school when I could be having fun with my own kids so I’m feeling the pangs of resentment towards those who would merely categorize us teachers as glorified babysitters.
After watching our readers, teachers, engage in a battle of words over the last 72 hours, we realized that the people who leave these comments aren’t well and teachers, unfortunately, are easy targets. For every negative statement, we could prove it was wrong, but because teachers come to our page for peace, solace and community- not to read how meaningless their job is to some in the public. So two days later, in the midst of seeing people continue to discredit, demean and threaten teachers who don’t want to have to donate plasma to survive, we’re throwing in the white flag and blocking people.
In our writer’s group for The Educator’s Room, we realized the disrespect of teachers didn’t start with the invention of social media, but what we know that now it’s easy to hide behind a computer screen and spew garbage- even if the poster knows it’s not true. However, it got me thinking- what would convince this subset of humans that the job of the teacher isn’t easy? What would it take for people who spew so much vitriol to understand that teachers are the backbone of democratic society?
Every person who criticizes a teacher should be forced to work as a teacher in a school for a minimum of a month. Click To Tweet
We came up with a few options, but I’ll highlight the one thing EVERY person should have to do in order to criticize what a teacher endures. Every person who criticizes a teacher should be forced to work as a teacher in a school for a minimum of a month. That person should experience the long days, the paperwork, the unreasonable demands and the parents who expect teachers to raise their children. At a minimum, this volunteer should be expected to:
buy their own supplies and to work for free 90% of the time.
spend at a minimum of 10-12 hours a day at work planning, implementing and adjusting their lessons.
experience the glass ceiling for most teachers where they can’t professionally advance or “move on”.
have their personal lives scrutinized and put on public display.
reason with demanding parents who expect you to not only teach their children but discipline out of your frame of influence.
manage a classroom of 25-30 children with unique needs and demands.
have all of their children pass a state assessment that you as the teacher may have never seen or been properly trained on how to prepare for it.
How long would this experiment last? Probably after the first week, these “teacher bashers” would drop out and swear off the art of teaching. Maybe after this experience, these people would apologize to every teacher in their lives and become an ally in our fight for higher wages. While we hope this is the outcome we realize that social media makes it very easy for the unqualified to criticize making the new adage rings true, “Those who CAN teach. Those who CAN’T go on social media and talk about teachers.”
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