Voices4Kids
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Voices4Kids

Thank God for Our Teachers

Next week is Teacher Appreciation Week, but why wait? Every day should be Teacher Appreciation Day.

I have immense respect for the work that our nation’s educators do. They have dedicated their careers to our children, and they do so through their great wisdom, leadership, ability, compassion, performance, and love for their profession and for our kids.

The work that teachers do is hard work. I volunteer to be an assistant coach for high school girls’ basketball for a few months a year, and that work is for just a few hours a day and it is both fantastic, rewarding, but exhausting. I am amazed that teachers do what they do all day, grade papers at night, and plan lessons whenever they have can find a moment of time. But I have seen this first-hand because I observed my mom, dad, step-mother, uncle, step-brother, two cousins, and my cousin’s husband, who were all educators. They were tireless and always put kids first.

On a daily basis, educators and schools organize and transport kids to and from school, employ teachers, substitutes, and teacher aides for every single classroom, employ librarians, counselors, school nurses, and coaches to provide books, counseling, health services , and sports to students, provide protection and safety to kids, provide meals (sometimes the most nutritious meals that kids have access to), and on and on.

A school campus can have hundreds or even thousands of children. If you think it is easy, go through a background check and volunteer. In no time, you will realize just how hard it is. But teachers do it and they do it with kids as their overriding priority.

Rita Pierson has said, “Every child deserves a champion — an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.”

Teachers are often that champion.

Teachers address educational needs of students and inspire many to unlock new and life-changing interests in math, science, literature, the arts, and sports. They are to uplift the joy and happiness of their students, as they find their voice, discover new insights, find new friends, and talk about their families. But they are also there for students who are suffering from trauma, heartache, sadness, poverty, homelessness, and abuse. Society’s ills spill over into our schools and educators often are forced to deal with that burden, even if it is not in their job description and certainly not in the pay.

Education Secetary Miguel Cardona is right when he said, “Teaching is the foundation of all opportunity in America.” Every other profession is made possible by the foundational work of teachers and learning.

Consequently, teachers deserve all of our respect and support. They are, after all, responsible for uplifting and supporting our nation’s most precious resource: our children.

As First Lady Jill Biden, a teacher herself, said to those honored at the National and State Teachers of the Year event yesterday, “Never forget, student by student, the lives you change go on and change the world. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

2022 National and State Teachers of the Year at the White House

Society has a responsibility to the next generation to leave them a better world. We should be fully supportive of the educators that are working to help kids make their hopes and aspirations come true.

As President Joe Biden said yesterday:

…we have a responsibility to make sure we have what you need to educate our children safely so they have a chance — a chance to achieve their dreams — dreams they don’t even know they have.

The priority and focus of schools should always be our kids. Parents are partners, but not the focus.

President Biden gets that. As he said:

…we always talk about “these children.” They’re not someone else’s children. They’re our children. And they are the kite strings that literally lift our national ambitions aloft in a literal sense. Think about it.

If you got to do one thing to make sure the nation succeeded in the next two generations, what would you do? You’d want — I would say, literally, have the best-educated public in the world. Have our students gain confidence enough to know what they can do, to reach in. We have an obligation. We have an obligation to help them teach and reach their potential.

You’ve heard me say it many times about our children, but it’s true: They’re all our children.

And the reason you’re the Teachers of the Year is because you recognize that. They’re not somebody else’s children; they’re like yours when they’re in the classroom. You represent a profession that helps them gain the confidence — a confidence they believe they can do anything.

The right-wing rage machine went into full throttle after the President said the words “all our children.” In all caps, they proclaim that kids are only “our children” to parents, as if children are a form of property, and demand that teachers understand there are nothing more than employees or servants to parents.

Nope. Not even close.

The rage machine doesn’t get it, but the vast majority of parents do. Teachers are our partners, and the focus of both parents and teachers is on the education, health, safety, and well-being of children. Our united goal is to help children find and fulfill their greatest God-given potential.

In communities across this country, people embrace their teachers and their schools. We are proud to talk about “our schools,” “our kids,” “our PTA,” “our teachers,” “our team,” and “our (fill in your local school’s mascot).” We recognize the partnership, even if the rage machine does not.

As President Biden said to teachers:

…we should stand up for you. We should have your back. Teaching is one of the hardest jobs in this country to be able to do it well, and one of the most important….

American teachers have dedicated their lives to teaching our children and lifting them up. We got to stop making them the target of the culture wars.

Again, most parents understand and agree with this. In recent studies and polling, the overwhelming majority of parents are supportive of the teachers and the school(s) that their children attend. In fact, according to a March 2022 poll, people express favorable opinions of teachers by a more than 5-to-1 (73–14%) margin. An April 2022 poll finds that parents believe teacher did “the best they could, given the circumstances around the pandemic” by a 88–12% margin.

Source: SocialSphere Poll, March 6–14, 2022
Source: Ipsos Poll, April 7–13, 2022

If there is any negativity, what little there is, seems to be dominated by those without kids in the public schools, older people without school-age children, or people playing politics with our schools and children. After reviewing polling data, Jessica Grouse explains:

All of this at least raises the question of whether some of the people driving the outrage, even animus, against schools might not have much skin in the game and might not have any recent experience with teachers or curriculum.

Unfortunately, our educational system is under attack by those whose agenda is to privatize public schools, ban books, whitewash history and science, and convert education into a cultural warfare battleground that prioritizes partisan politics over the education, health, and safety of our children. It has become an environment where adults are embarrassing themselves by behaving so poorly.

And let’s be clear, no child would dare act like that because, in part, teachers have taught kids to behave and to be respectful of one another. Poor behavior is learned and we should all do better by not acting horribly at school board meetings, in the stands at sporting events, etc. Our kids are watching.

I thank and am inspired by my family members who were educators, the teachers who opened doors and directed my personal path, and the teachers who have played an invaluable role in the lives of my own children and other students across this country.

National Teacher of the Year honoree Kurt Russell explains:

Especially during this past two years, I have personally witnessed teachers pour into their students unwavering kindness, love, and hope….

Each student needs a champion no matter what their circumstances are.

Russell adds:

Each morning parents give us their most precious gifts: their children. Parents have placed trust that we nurture, cultivate, and help students find personal meaning and purpose in their lives. School is where dreams come alive. It has been teachers who have laid the foundation of possibilities….

It is important that my students see themselves as I see them, with unlimited potential and full of gifts.

Thank you Mr. Russell and to all the dedicated and truly amazing teachers and educators across this country for all they do — for our kids.

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Forum for child advocates to raise important, but often neglected, issues and advance policy change that would improve the lives of our nation's children.

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Bruce Lesley

Bruce Lesley

@BruceLesley — President of @First_Focus & @Campaign4Kids. Child advocate, husband & father of 4. Basketball fanatic. Follow on Twitter: @BruceLesley.

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