Many moments during the Trump administration have broken me, but for the most part, it’s a lot of empty chatter. At any speaking event, Donald Trump bombards us with the same regurgitated talking points, and the schtick has gotten stale. We’ve picked it apart and debunked all the lies so many times that, at this point, it just sounds like the teacher in the Charlie Brown specials: “Mwha wha wha wha womp.”
But at a rally on February 11, Donald Trump Jr. took to the podium and said something that made my heart stop momentarily and then pound with the rage of a boxer hitting a punching bag:
Keep up that fight. Bring it to your schools. You don’t have to be indoctrinated by these loser teachers that are trying to sell you on socialism from birth.
That’s right. He said “loser teachers.”
Among the breaking points I’ve reached with our current leadership, this one hit me particularly hard. Maybe it’s my mood, maybe it’s the endless winter weather, or maybe it’s something I ate. Maybe it’s because the very foundation of our education system was being attacked. But it left me feeling sick.
I come from a long line of “loser teachers.” I am the granddaughter of a loser teacher. The niece of loser teachers. The cousin of loser teachers. The sister of a loser teacher. The friend of many loser teachers. Once upon a time, I wanted to be a loser teacher too. But when I approached that point in my college life to choose that track, I bailed. I wasn’t strong enough. I wasn’t selfless enough.
I guess I wasn’t “loser” enough.
That’s because I recognized fairly early on that being a loser teacher requires a stamina I knew I wasn’t cut out for—at least, not when I was 20 years old and trying to navigate my future. I think of the loser teachers in our country and all that it takes to be a loser. Perhaps Trump Jr. doesn’t quite understand what being a loser actually demands. Let me attempt to “educate” him on loser teachers.
Having summers off is a myth. I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t see many teachers driving around in expensive convertibles with all their summer free time. Many teachers use the time to work second jobs or take on summer school work in order to supplement their income. And a not-insignificant chunk of that income—their own money—is often reinvested into their classrooms. When budgets are tight and a first-grade teacher needs a rug for the kids to sit on at group lesson time, that teacher buys their own. Many teachers keep a stash of food at school they bought on their own to sneak something healthy to a student who came to school without breakfast, knowing that a hungry child has a tough time learning.
The responsibilities of a loser teacher extend far beyond standing in front of a classroom sharing a lesson.
Short workdays are also a fallacy. A school day may be around seven hours for the kids, but loser teachers are there well before and after those hours. They spend evenings writing lesson plans and grading papers. Before and after school, there are staff meetings they attend, extracurriculars they lead, and presentations and continuing education classes they are required to make time for just to maintain their jobs and licenses.
More to this point, the responsibilities of a loser teacher extend far beyond standing in front of a classroom sharing a lesson. Teachers are expected to wear several hats—more than other people even think about putting on.
Teachers are not just educators; they are counselors. I had a teacher in middle school who reached out to students who showed signs of depression and met with them one-on-one to extend a hand and guide them. I know because I was one of them. It’s almost 30 years later, and I will never forget how he helped me navigate that dark place.
Teachers are not just educators; they are surrogate parents. So many students endure broken homes and unstable situations. A hug from a teacher may be the only time a child receives a sign of love that day. A word of encouragement or a high-five in the hallway may be the only direct and positive acknowledgment a kid receives that week. A pair of mittens covertly stashed in the locker of a student who has none may save that child from cold hands on the playground and on the way home. Teachers discipline, and they nurture. They help young minds grow in a place that may be the only stable environment a child has in their life.
Teachers are not just educators; they save lives. We live in a world where active shooter drills are practiced regularly in schools, and teachers must be on alert at all times. They are the protectors of these young lives. When the unthinkable happens, some have made the ultimate sacrifice, taken a bullet and maybe even given their life.
Let’s note that again: There are loser teachers who have taken a bullet for children that aren’t their own. Can many non-losers say they’ve done the same?
To summarize the lesson here for Trump Jr.: Teachers are everyday angels among us. They deserve our support, our respect, and our unyielding gratitude.
I’ll even take a cue from the great educators I’ve had throughout my life and resist countering Trump Jr.’s ridiculous attack with meanness. After all, teachers encourage students to embrace kindness and avoid name-calling. It is taking every fiber of my being to do so, but I had good loser teachers who would want me to take the high road.
Instead, I raise a glass to the “loser teachers” in our country. May we all strive to attain your level of “loserdom.” Our nation is in sore need of more wonderful, amazing “losers” like you. God bless you, “losers.” Keep up your fight. You are loved, supported, and seen.
For Trump Jr. and all his ilk: Class dismissed.