Dear Michigan Public School Teachers

Snyder

Dear Michigan Public School Teachers,

It is July. The finish line has been crossed. And most of you did not sprint over it, hands waving in victory. You were a sweaty mess – staggering, stumbling, gasping, and limping toward the final bell. You were sunburned and blistered from track and field, track and fun, herding your class(es)  to the local ice cream stand, and your seventy-twelfth field trip to Greenfield Village or Sleeping Bear Dunes or Mackinac Island. You entered so many test scores into the computer that your eyes are just starting to uncross. The cramp in your right hand from writing *Your child was a delight to have in class* on report card after report card and in your left hand from crossing your fingers while writing this is finally easing. You printed awards, signed awards, handed out awards, and smiled at cameras and cell phones with your arm wrapped around the backs of children who have yet to discover deodorant and others who bathe in cologne or perfume.

The school year started out fine. Your classroom design, stolen from Pinterest, was bright and cheerful and unmarred by the August perspiration you donated free of charge day after endless day to make it look so. You scraped up Scholastic points and raided garage sales to replace books that currently reside under the beds of the previous year’s students. The desks or tables were straight and even. You painted and wrestled with contact paper and cut out letters and laminated and your head was filled with brilliant ideas from the classes you took and books and articles you pondered and highlighted over the summer.

You attended back to school PD, except it’s now called PL and no one knows why the change but don’t forget to turn in your log to the office. You and your colleagues decided to spend the first day of PL playing a drinking game with the word *rigor* but by an hour and a half in you had so many tallies that a drink per mention would land you in a coma and definitely not in any shape for *PL Day 2 – Disaggregated Data: Which Subgroup Does Your Grade Level Suck at Educating?*  You changed the drinking term to *authentic assessment* and at the end of the day there were zero tallies because that’s sooo 2007 and you went to bed having consumed water – which is good because you were dehydrated since the library hosting PL was 102 degrees.

At that point you still liked the members of your PLC but that ended somewhere between the thirteenth and fourteenth GOP debate and you personally think the words immigration, terrorism, climate change, gun control, Trump, and Clinton should be banned from the lounge because you want peace. Not even world peace. Just lounge peace. And that could happen if those words are eliminated from discussion, the person who jams the copier fixes it, and colleagues quit posting cryptic messages on Facebook that leave you scratching your head wondering who is speaking to whom and which side you are on.

There were times in the year that you smiled. So very many times. You eye-roll  smirked at the state mandated viewing of *Slips, Trips, and Falls* in which you are instructed to call a custodian every time you need a poster hung on the wall because he will be delighted to assist you.  There were good smiles too. Creating unique voices during read aloud time is as funny to you as it is to the giggling criss-cross-applesauced children you’re entertaining. You smiled when Tasha finally passed her nines times test and when Quinton grasped the difference between a noun and a verb. You ran a victory lap in your head when Lola had a capital letter and ending punctuation on most of the sentences in her writing piece. You laughed out loud when you saw that Jordan had answered *Yes* to the question *Is 74 even or odd?* and laughed even harder when you saw that under the yes was a half erased *No,* meaning he had pondered the question a really long time. You tried really hard not to smile on Career Day when one of your littles raised their hand and told the visiting police officer that her mom had handcuffs like that but hers were red and glittery. In fact you nearly choked to death trying not to ROFL.

There were times in the year that you cried. So very many times. Teary eyes reading journal entries about dead dogs, dead grandmas, and deadbeat dads. Tears dabbed with tissues in the bathroom after being reamed out by a parent who doesn’t understand that his precious snowflake sometimes isn’t. Way too many of you ugly cried – curled in a ball in bed at home over the news that a student or colleague’s  life ended too soon. Then digging deep for strength, you returned to the school to wrap your arms of comfort around sobbing teenagers. And then those last-day-of-school tears and lumpy throat as they walked out the door and you knew you could never possibly love a group of kids more. At least until exactly this time next year.

There were times in the year that you were tired. So very many times. Not the wow-I-got-so-much-done good kind of tired. You were and are tired tired. Not from the kids. Or the administrators. Or the lessons. Or the parents. That stuff is easy peasy comparatively. Mostly you are tired of being a pawn in political debates and decision making.

You’re tired because the political party of *local control* really does enjoy controlling the locals (despite overwhelming resistance from the provincials via voter initiative) and chances are you suffered under an EFM, an EM, a PLA, an SRO, an EAA, an EAS, or an LMNOP. You spent your year scrutinized by your principal who now has to do planned and impromptu walk throughs, observations, follow up conversations, and annual evaluations of everyone in the building and according to the courts – because they know – that still leaves her with enough time to contact an exterminator, figure out why the copy paper wasn’t delivered, and deal with Johnny flipping off the lunchroom and calling you the b-word. You were also observed by a team of suited strangers with expressionless faces – from the distant land of Lansing – who criticized your learning target and called the depth of knowledge of your assignments lacking but somehow failed to recognize that your ceiling is cracked and caving in, the drinking fountain water is orange, and the federally funded mobile computer lab in your classroom is pristine because your building doesn’t have wifi so it isn’t actually usable.

You’re tired of the GLCEs versus CCS polka or tango or salsa you’ve been dancing for several years now. You spent every spare moment of four years of your life crosswalking the standards. Nodding thoughtfully and respectfully (i.e. erupted into furious debate and hurled personal insults about *yo mama* while factioning into pro and anti-cursive coalitions) at committee meetings. Figuring out which lesson plans you could salvage and easily convert and which ones needed to be passed to a different grade level. Listing materials you would need to teach the new standards, knowing that the requisition request would be returned with a laughing emoji.  You hurriedly retrieved your thrown away units when the legislature said it knew more than MDE and cancelled Common Core. But wait for it… nope it’s back… it’s gone… no one knows… Then threw your hands up in despair when the MDE site essentially said just teach both, we don’t know what the heck the Governor is doing either and he just stole your SRO unconstitutionally. Hold on…  Never mind… the legislature is switching everything to Massachusetts’s pre CCS curriculum because… because… Massachusetts and Michigan both start with M??

http://www.mlive.com/news/index.ssf/2016/04/senate_committee_approves_legi.html

You’re tired of those who are not us but claim to be. You know who you are and we all know it too – you teacher that sits and stares at your computer all day while the kids run wild. You teacher who shows way too many movies and ridicules students and leaves the minute the buses do and never contributes anything productive to school culture. Or worse, you teacher who makes the headlines for having affairs with your students or watching porn on your school computer or physically assaulting a child – you are not us. We do not claim you. We do not like you. You administrators from the east who pilfered your teachers’ supply order money by pocketing vendor bribes – we detest you. You do not deserve the title of educator and you do not have our support. You are the reason the press vilifies us, the internet trolls delight in us, and why public perception of us is negative. It is at least partially your fault that teacher tenure has disappeared, due process eliminated, and bargaining rights slashed. We all pay the price for the legislature attempting to solve the problem of you and it makes us despise you.

It is partially the fault of the few and far between bad teachers, but mostly the fault of your elected officials. After yesterday’s announcement that despite five courts finding the teacher tax to be unconstitutional due to the quite obvious fact that it is *arbitrary and capricious* you wonder why Governor Snyder can’t channel his inner Elsa and LET IT GO already! Even Attorney General Schuette – not generally known as friend of teachers – thinks the governor has lost his mind on this one. You won and part of you feels vindicated. But you mostly just want your money back. Now. If not sooner.

Speaking of the Governor – which teacher from his childhood so completely warped his view of you? So much that he feels the need to attack. Attack again. And then attack some more. You sighed and wrote a check for your union dues – since Governor Snyder had so much free time that he sided against the Michigan Association of School Boards, the majority of school administrators, and the Michigan population at large (who didn’t care) and signed a bill stating that you can have donations to the crippled and orphaned widows of neglected elephants without tusks fund directly withdrawn from your paycheck, but not your professional association fees.

Snyder

(Photo courtesy of MLive.com)

 

But then Right to Work. The debacle in Lansing of being locked out of the House owned by you made you so mad you wrote out that professional association fee check with an extra flourish and an angry pen. The list goes on and your eyes get wider each time you read the news. The state might retain any third grader who cannot read. As judged by which test exactly? The MEAP? The M-STEP? Or the not yet decided assessment apparently created in Massachusetts?  Until when?  Until said third grader is sporting a mustache and driving himself to school? The state might not pay teachers for days they already worked. One teacher calling in sick can be considered as the entire district going on strike and penalties applied. Swinging from the extreme of the NCLB mandate disallowing teachers to instruct in the area of their minor – to allowing non-college graduates and even non-high school diploma earners to teach. Teach. Like teach students. Impart wisdom to the nation’s youth. Minus any kind of degree. Then you saw the new graphic emblem on the website of MDE and thought – well that pretty much sums it up.

Get Involved

What brave new completely freaking insane world is this?

Part of the fault certainly must be placed on the myth that teachers are priceless. That teaching is the most important job. The shining jewel of all altruistic careers. Therefore it doesn’t really matter how teachers are treated or paid. Teachers went into it to change lives after all. This is the rationale of the educator exemption from the new federal overtime law. Teachers could never be paid for overtime because… well because… you are such amazing people. You love your job so much that we could never put a price on that.

You, teacher, need to disavow this myth. You do have a price and you are not so arrogant as to claim your worth is immeasurable. You know that the doctors and nurses and all the support staff of the hospital down the road do work equal in value to yours. Society could not function minus their efforts. And they should be treated and compensated accordingly. The courthouse across town is filled with lawyers and clerks and public defenders all of whom are ensuring that justice prevails. Society could not function minus their efforts. And they should be treated and compensated accordingly. The farmers who grow your nutrition and the truckers who deliver it – pretty important people. Firemen and police. Gas station owners and clerks and electric company employees and the people who make sure water is clean (or are supposed to) and those who handle the flow of money through the banking system. The construction worker who paves roads on which buses deliver children to their place of learning is just is vital to society as you educator introducing fourth graders to long division. All of humanity is or should be working altruistically for the betterment of society and it does you no favors to place yourself on a pedestal looking down in scorn upon other laborers as being less than. You are a professional who has studied long and hard and has experience and knows your trade and you deserve to be paid and treated accordingly.

It is time for you to say this has gone far enough. You want your school district to be controlled by the community that knows it best and has elected officials to oversee it. You want to be treated with respect and fairness when it comes to compensation and to have the right to negotiate work conditions and salary with your employer without interference from Lansing bureaucrats who know nothing about your district and its priorities. You want your years of training and experience to count when pedagogical decisions are made for your students. Not the opinions of the fine people of Massachusetts. For the love of Bloom, Piaget, and Vygotsky can the testing and data collection of every pencil move, keyboard stroke, and eye blink of each student stop? Just stop. Let appropriate assessment guide appropriate instruction the way it has effectively done for as long as there have been educators, athletic coaches, and music instructors. You need to have the freedom – and time – to actually teach.

And you will teach. Despite it all you will teach – because I know you. You are right now in a college classroom frantically highlighting and jotting notes and are wild with ideas you can’t wait to implement. Your nightstand is overflowing with professional books and articles that you will devour by September. You have enlisted your whole neighborhood’s help saving enough Gatorade bottles for that super cool Word Work center you’re creating. You know the location of every garage sale this week, have budgeted $15 for rainy day recess games but will likely shell out $40, and are praying someone is getting rid of graphic novels appropriate for sixth graders. There’s a box where you throw all your empty paper towel spools because the music teacher needs 124 of them for 2nd grade rain sticks. You have a baggie of Box Tops and are crossing your fingers that enough will come in to fund a Buddy Bench for the playground. There’s a half painted bookshelf in your garage that your spouse better have finished by the time you get home from class because you can’t wait to start labeling its shelves by genre.

Because you are a Michigan Public School Teacher. And you are amazing.

With love,

Another Michigan Public School Teacher

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28 thoughts on “Dear Michigan Public School Teachers

  1. Reblogged this on Mister Journalism: "Reading, Sharing, Discussing, Learning" and commented:
    “It is time for you to say this has gone far enough. You want your school district to be controlled by the community that knows it best and has elected officials to oversee it. You want to be treated with respect and fairness when it comes to compensation and to have the right to negotiate work conditions and salary with your employer without interference from Lansing bureaucrats who know nothing about your district and its priorities. You want your years of training and experience to count when pedagogical decisions are made for your students. Not the opinions of the fine people of Massachusetts. For the love of Bloom, Piaget, and Vygotsky can the testing and data collection of every pencil move, keyboard stroke, and eye blink of each student stop? Just stop. Let appropriate assessment guide appropriate instruction the way it has effectively done for as long as there have been educators, athletic coaches, and music instructors. You need to have the freedom – and time – to actually teach.

    And you will teach. Despite it all you will teach – because I know you

    (Follow the link to read the full post.)

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      1. I didn’t know this was an *article bailout teachers.* I’m not sure I even know what that expression means. The other day I wrote down my frustration with Lansing in what I thought was a humorous way and assumed my readership would include myself, my husband, and maybe a couple friends out of loyalty. You are correct. Life is hard. It is really, really hard. Sometimes unbearably hard. I wish you a wonderful day. Thank you for reading.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. We want the best out of our educational system yet we treat teachers like second class citizens. It once was that teachers received the support of parents and community leaders. Now they are accused of everything that is wrong with the educational system with little to no support from parents. Yes, life is hard. But no one deserves to be disrespected the way we disrespect teachers; the very people charged with educating our future leaders.

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  2. Very interesting read, do the right thing Lansing and get the funding needed so letters like this are not necessary. Vote them out in November if they are not on the same page. Would you be a teacher if all this were against you? Yet you want the best teachers to teach your children. All the teachers I know deserve more lets see that all funding needed happens.

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  3. Thanks for your obvious dedication to your students and our profession! You hit the nail on the head. Also, I really despise the contrived competition of the “free market” policies being forced upon MI’s public education system by the political party that espouses such systems, because why should some schools, some teachers, and some students be lauded as winners while others derided as losers, simply based on scores from standardized tests? Especially when the starting lines for the race are not uniform. Especially when it’s known that competition between students who didn’t willingly sign up to participate is damaging to their psyches, and for their love of learning. Especially for so many reasons.

    Happy Summer Break. You deserve and have earned it.

    -Garrison Dyer
    Another Public School Teacher (in WA, from MI)

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  4. This rings so true I thought you taught in my building. Is it bad it is July and I am already gearing up for another year of this? Hope things change…

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  5. Teachers deserve combat pay for what they do. I see it everyday because I work in the lunchroom of an elementary school. These teachers do not get enough credit for what they do. School is for teaching kids reading, writing, math and spelling. They are not there to babysit Johnny who needs his butt spanked and learn manners. Life skills should be taught at home, not at school. Parents should kiss the teachers and thank them for what they do. If my kid got in trouble at school , he was in bigger trouble at home. Parents wake up, you are responsible too for your kids behavior.

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  6. Thanks for writing such a comprehensive piece! Might I suggest that paragraph 3 and 4 be deleted and then repost this great essay? I would like the general public to read this but know that most will not find the tongue in cheek references about PD etc. in those paragraphs humorous, in fact the info may be used to discredit teachers. Otherwise, thanks for capturing the morale of our profession.

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    1. In hindsight I agree with you. I had no idea that this blog entry would gather traction. My colleagues and I in fact have never played a drinking game in or about any PL session and I thought it would just be a funny joke among teachers who obviously know this is hyperbole. Ditto on crossing fingers while writing nice comments about students and obviously we all type our comments anyway. Had I known this would take off like it did, I absolutely would have written some things differently. I am not sure how to undo that since it’s been read close to 40,000 times. I don’t even know how to republish it. If someone approached me about submitting it to a publication – I have no idea who or what – I would definitely eliminate that. Thank you for your feedback & you are correct. Lesson learned for the future.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I teach in Alabama, and even though your acronyms aren’t used in every state, I get it…the drinking games are hilarious, and “pleasure to teach,” means exactly the opposite on our report cards. Even though you think that your situation is local, your distress is felt by teachers everywhere. I thought that Alabama was the only state whose legislature hates teachers, and whose people are ignorant enough to try to repeal Common Core.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. May I suggest that you make the editorial changes you have outlined and then submit it to the Editor of Local Papers (Detroit, Lansing, Grand Rapids, etc.) The MEA Voice, Michigan Radio – State of Opportunity, and your own legislator and indeed the Governor’s office. You must know with 40,000 people having taken the time to read it, you have made a powerful statement that should, no must be heard by many more people. Have you considered running for the school board?

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    1. Thank you. I may consider some edits and submissions. My husband is actually the president of a school board in a district adjacent to the district in which I teach. We are both very passionate about public education and are dismayed at the changes we have seen in recent years.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. In response to Mr. Ryan Bladzik’s pingback – I appreciate that discussion about public education is taking place, particularly among those who seek leadership positions for our great state. Clearly my intended audience was *Michigan Public School Teachers* as indicated by the opening greeting. It was meant as a humorous inside joke type blog. Since I have published a grand total of five blog entries I think it is obvious I had no expectation of it traveling beyond my inner circle. Had my intended audience been legislators, parents, or the general public, I would have written an entirely different piece. If the forum in which I was speaking had been a professional publication, I would have used much different voice. This was primarily intended to be a fun read and to let teachers blow off a little steam over some of Lansing’s decisions. Quite obviously, I enjoy hyperbole and I hope anyone with common sense can infer that. It no way reflects the view of my home district or of any association to which I belong. I do appreciate the comments I have received and am glad it made some of you laugh and hopefully think.

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  8. So well written and so spot on. My husband and I both work in education and feel like we have to work a little harder every year to keep our positive attitudes. We are passionate about what we do, but all of the extra crap is making it difficult to stick with it. My parents, both retired public school teachers, are disgusted by what has happened to this system. Somethings gotta give! Keep fighting the good fight 😄

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  9. Thank you! You expressed the ongoing situation beautifully. Don’t change a thing. You expressed yourself with humor and hyperbole while presenting the facts. There are some who will always take things in the worst way possible if it suits their needs. Any thinking adult should be able to recognize satire in a piece of writing and if they cannot that is their problem, not yours. Again, thank you. It won’t change anything with the politicians but at least those of us in the trenches feel a little less alone. We are one.

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  10. My sister devoted her entire life from 6th grade on preparing herself mentally and academically to become the best teacher she could be. After teaching 24.5 years, (acquiring a master’s degree due to ‘furthering education’ along the way…. Thanks to Governor Snyder’s ‘right to work’ law, pushed through in a lame duck session… My sister was pink slipped. Yes, a lifetime of work, down the drain. It has destroyed her psychologically and emotionally. A 30 minute ‘mediocre review’ and all those years of college and all those years devoting her life to teaching… GONE! The district has no responsibility under this new law to provide documentation of their ‘findings’. Right to work gives 100% control to any district to pluck their higher payed higher scaled teachers out and replace them with new lower paid educators.
    SHAME ON GOVERNOR SNYDER!! HE MAKES ME SICK!… who would want to be a teacher these days?

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    1. I am so sorry to hear about your sister. It is truly a tragedy. This is not the first such story I have heard, unfortunately. Teachers who had spent their entire careers with great evaluations being pink slipped – all of a sudden getting mediocre scale that allow them to be first lay offs. Ultimately it comes back to insufficient school funding. I have been blessed to both live in and work for districts where the integrity of administrators has been impeccable in that regard and have continued to evaluate fairly rather than cave to financial pressure. I don’t take it for granted and am thankful for that. But it shouldn’t even be a question. School administrators should not be in a position where they feel like they have to push out experienced teachers in order to avoid EFMs.

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  11. Thank you for a great article. Most people just don’t understand what teachers do every day and how much harder the job has become. It is hard to do the job of actually teaching when so much testing has to be done. I think the purpose of the testing is not to assess children but to assess the teacher, which can not be done through tests on students. What happened to that student that day or year greatly affects how a student performs. Did their parents get divorced, did they lose a loved one, or their pet, or was the room 90 degrees etc. So much insanity in the educational field today. Anyone older than a child can teach, really? I have a Masters plus 30 hours have taught for 42 years and am retired. I retired because I found that education was more about testing than teaching. I can not sub because if I do I will lose my pension, more insanity. I find volunteering to be very rewarding and am so glad to be able to lighten the load for our very overworked teachers.

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