“These Teachers”

“These Teachers”

It doesn’t take long in the current political climate to come across the words “these teachers” blasted across the comments section of online news, in responses on people’s posts on Facebook and  other social media forums, or even being spoken on the radio. “These teachers” has become synonymous with the concept of teachers asking to be heard, and the consensus of that request being, “No, thanks, we have heard enough.”

Teaching has long been a profession where people assume they understand the inner workings because they have gone through a school system as  students. People feel they understand what it is to be a teacher, so that lack of a mysterious element makes it “common” and something we can all judge. For example, my husband is a web developer. Many people have no idea what he does for a living (I definitely still have no clue) so naturally nobody on the outside assumes they can do it better. However, since we have all been  inside classrooms, we have a society of education experts. It is a profession where people who have never stepped foot in a classroom as the teacher feel they can call the shots, much like the way WebMD has led to a generation of people self-diagnosing themselves prior to seeing a doctor.

In early 2021, the echoing shouts of “these teachers” is often in response to the current state of our education system.

A year after schools have shut down due to Covid-19, many are still closed. Many are opened for hybrid learning, some are not open at all, and few are beginning to reopen fully. The rate of these openings and the plans that are being constructed naturally leads to opinions. Anyone with a child has a vested interest in the school system, for the mental and educational well-being of their child, so naturally it is a heated topic.

Whenever a person or group of people feels cornered or attacked, the natural response is to go on the defense. One definition of defensive is, “very anxious to challenge or avoid criticism.” When this criticism or challenge is coming from all directions, including family and friends, it is very hard to remain impartial and not take it personally. It is hard to separate yourself from the collective “these teachers” and keep going.  It’s hard to take a step back and realize that people are coming from a place of frustration, and sometimes these frustrations can be misguided.

I am far from immune to these comments. I read them and often question how people can think so little of teachers, when most teachers are truly trying their best in these circumstances. However, I refuse to let these opinions become part of my inner dialogue. I do not care if people feel “these teachers” should not be paid, or that we are lazy and to be blamed. I refuse to let these opinions shape my sense of self-worth or my belief in myself as a professional. Instead, I focus on what I know to be true of “these teachers.”

Most of “these teachers” strive to do what is best for kids.

“These teachers” have had to reinvent their profession, with resources that were never designed to be used these ways. “These teachers” are often required and expected to meet the same standards they would in a typical school year, with nothing typical about the situation. “These teachers” are working hard and forming relationships with kids in new ways.

For every parent, community member, or nay-sayer who feels otherwise, who feels teachers are the blockade in this crisis, there are people who appreciate what “these teachers” are doing. I choose to focus on the good. I focus on the bonds I am forming with students, the relationships I am fostering with their families, and the growth I see in my students. Ignoring the vitriol does not make it go away, but it does prevent it from becoming part of my soul and my sense of self-worth.  We cannot control the public dialogue, and the more we try to, the worse it gets, so instead it’s essential to look inward and see how we can come out of this stronger and whole.

I am one of “these teachers”, and I am proud of it.

Stephanie Cardoso is a fifth grade teacher in Edison, New Jersey. She is the 2014 New Jersey State Teacher of the Year Finalist, has been named a "Teacher who Makes Magic", and has been honored on ABC World News as the Person of the Week.


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