Thursday, February 14, 2013

With all due respect …this Valentine’s for you

 With all due respect …this Valentine’s for you

Usually around the time of commercialized celebrations I rail against how so many people use a holiday to offer words of love, admiration, pleasure, thanks, good will or whatever emotions that day evokes, but which they should be expressing each and every day. This Valentine’s Day, though, I choose to contradict my huffing and puffing to express my utmost appreciation for teachers, parents and administrators: the triple-tined spear that prods children into successful students and life-long lovers of learning.

No, no, no, the contents of the, not one, but two chocolate caramel-filled hearts from my husband have not catapulted my brain into the land of empty calorie sugar-filled thoughts. These confections have, though, made me cognizant of the fact that everyone needs to feel loved and valued and respected for attempting to make the people who touch their lives feel loved and valued and respected. So today, I send a dozen long-stemmed accolades and an enormous heart-shaped box of chocolate-caramel admiration to each and every person who strives to insure that our students are filled to overflowing with a lifelong love of learning.

Red Rose 1/Candy: Chocolate caramel

Teachers not only hold the key, but they are the keystone of any successful educational program. Classroom instructors need to assess, sometimes instantly, why Johnny isn’t engaged and what type of hook he/she needs to bait to reel him into learning, and, consequently, his success. They aren’t afforded the luxury of a six-month study to make the choices that will build Johnny’s confidence and understanding that, “Yes, he can” read any book, compute any equation, pass any test and write any essay because “Yes he is” smart enough to do so.
Red Rose 2/Candy: Chocolate caramel

Teachers understand that Jane and her 24 plus peers are not balls of clay composed of the same exact ingredients. They totally comprehend, though, that Jane and her peers will be assessed by those non-educators who make the rules as if they were clones of each other. Therefore, teachers know that they need to create lessons that are fast-paced for Jane, hands-on for Joey, auditory-based for Betty and visually-grounded for Bob. The lessons need to be lively for Liz, hushed for Harry, repetitive for Rhonda, yet varied for Victor. Also, they all need to be focused on standards of learning, A.P. exams, and in 45 states, address the Common Core Standards so Jane and her peers earn at least a proficient rating (A.P. test takers aim for scores of 4 and 5 to earn college credit).
Red Rose 3/Candy: Chocolate caramel

Teachers know that the majority of their energy should be spent on their students , planning engaging lessons, assessing students’ progress (or lack thereof) and making adjustments for their charges’ needs… constantly making adjustments for their charges’ needs. But soon after signing their contracts, they understand that in today’s data-driven school systems, most of their energy will be spent on completing administrative directives. At a recent party, I overheard a friend respond, to the comment, “Oh, I hear you are a
teacher,” with, “No, I attend meetings and fill out paperwork. When I can, I teach”.
Red Rose 4/Candy: Chocolate caramel pecan cluster

Teachers know that if their students are to experience success, they must form professional bonds with parents. Parents are more than willing to discuss their children’s’ academic strengths and weaknesses as well as the attitudes and behaviors that could, and most often, do affect their offspring’s’ success. Speaking of parents…

Red Rose 5/Candy: Chocolate caramel

Parents understand that their children need their fierce protection, but know when to allow a teacher’s sincere worries about Johnny or Jane’s lack of success to penetrate this armor. They are open to listening to the instructor’s concerns and to work with the teacher and their child to form an academic plan of action. They do not want Johnny left behind academically, socially or behaviorally. And parents never make excuses or lie for their children’s actions, inaction, or words.
Red Rose 6/Candy: Chocolate caramel

Parents put school first- before jobs. Some kids work to pay for their cars, clothes and extra-curricular activities, but most moms and dads set a reasonable limit to this so school remains a priority. Even parents whose kids work to help pay the rest and food bills push classroom success because they know that financial stability often rests on a solid education.
Red Rose 7/Candy: Chocolate caramel pecan cluster

Parents promote respectful attitudes toward education and teaching at home. They let their kids blow off steam about the dictatorial history teacher, the micromanaging algebra instructor and the never-ending reading and writing assignments from the English educator with a My Class Rules attitude. But…but, they don’t join with their children in denigrating these educationalists. They would never tell their son, “You don’t have to listen to Mrs. C because she is just a teacher,” which their offspring gleefully repeats to Mrs. C the next day.
Red Rose 8/Candy: Chocolate caramel

Parents might disagree with the word picture about their son or daughter that the teacher paints, but they understand that the teachers see a side of their children that they don’t. They know that, like them, their children are multi-faceted, revealing various sides of their personality to teachers, bosses, friends, frenemies, Aunt Marge and Grandpa George, and to them. They realize that those lessons on rounded, dynamic characters they survived in high school English classes are meant for actual living beings, like them and their children, and not just for characters that sprung from a writer’s imagination. They staunchly push this fact to data-driven administrators that their Jane or Johnny is not just a mirror-version lump of clay to any of the 24 plus in each of her or his classes. Speaking of administrators…


Red Rose 9/Candy: Chocolate caramel truffle
Administrators hire teachers that they know will be the best fit at their school, and that bring with them goody bags overflowing with appealing activities, provocative lesson plans and inspiring attitudes. They hire professionals in their fields and never deny them their hard-earned classification.

Red Rose 10/Candy: Chocolate caramel

Administrators understand the importance of data in the quest for AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress), but also know that each child carries to class a backpack filled with feelings and fears, the reality of life situations and the effects of prior academic circumstances. Respecting the fact that they hired professionals, they allow their teachers the space and time to help their students to jump any hurdles that could keep them from being successful test takers, but most importantly-lifelong lovers of learning.

Red Rose 11/Candy: Chocolate caramel nut
Administrators will respectfully listen to any complaint against one of their teachers, but will not make any judgment at that time. Like parents with their children, they will close ranks around their staff member until they have collected all pertinent information from whatever source necessary. They will never take a parent’s side over the teacher’s, or cave to parents’ threats to ”make this public,” “sue,” or “go to the superintendent” before they have gathered all of the facts. Only then, armed with this information, will they make a decision and privately inform all involved parties, hopefully in person.

Red Rose 12/Candy: Chocolate caramel
Administrators will never forget the rigors of the classroom that their teachers face daily. Because of this, they will never turn a deaf ear to any staff member, parent, student or citizen of their district. They hold firm to the knowledge that a solid curriculum will stand up to any test, any scrutiny and any non-educator’s one size fits all dictate.

To teachers, parents and administrators known and unknown, I send this valentine of appreciation, today and every day. For you struggle constantly against a tide of criticism, society’s love-hate relationship with all things educational, and every politician, aspiring or sitting, who thinks the/she has the cure for America’s academic woes... and you shine on and on and on.
Now, sit back and smell the roses while you enjoy a chocolate caramel…or two.