Ready for a quirky admission: I read Gawker, the slightly tawdry, pseudo-news site with the subtitle, “Today’s Gossip is Tomorrow’s News,” almost every night.
I know. I know. Gawker is nothing more than reality TV for the Web, and I’m probably frying brain cells every time that I waste my time there.
But a few weeks back, I stumbled across an article that actually has me thinking about our nation’s efforts to recruit and retain teachers.
Titled “Texas Kindergarten Teacher Ruins Christmas,” it tells the story of a teacher who outed Santa as a fraud to her 5-year-olds after one of her students drew Santa in the “real” section of an assignment that asked kids to sort objects into real and imaginary columns.
Now don’t get me wrong: I can’t BELIEVE that a kindergarten teacher would ever out Santa Claus. Sure, he’s not real. Sure, kids will eventually figure that out. But is that REALLY something that 5-year-olds need to know?
What caught my eye, though, was the tenor of the comments left on the site by many users.
Here are four of my favorites:
- It’s NOT your place to tell MY child anything. YOUR job is to TEACH my child his ABC’s NOT destroy what little childhood CHILDREN HAVE LEFT TO EXPERIENCE that isn’t sexed up by the media.
- Needless to say if you spoke to my child the way you say you have we would certainly have words in your administrator’s office. You’d feel the heat I can assure you as I too have a strict policy against people showering their asinine left leaning ways of thinking.
- I’m (hopefully) sure you’re a nice person and a good teacher but you’re stepping over a line here and I would come down on you with all sorts of hellfire if you did this to my kid.
- Your job is to teach them to read, write and to count. Other than that shut your mouth! If I was a parent of a child and you did that, I would make it my lifelong mission to have your job. … Shut your pie hole and keep your HONESTY to yourself.
Again, please don’t misunderstand me: I DON’T think teachers have the right to ruin the Santa story for the students in their classrooms, I hope my daughter believes forever, and I’d be mad too if she found out “the truth” in such a blunt way.
I’ll also freely admit to cherry-picking the comments that I’ve shared here. Interestingly enough, there are PLENTY of people in the Gawker comment section that (1). Stand up for teachers in general and (2). Stand up for teachers that tell their students the truth about Santa Claus.
But I’m worried about the “I’m going to rain hellfire down on you” approach to addressing concerns about our schools that is reflected in these comments – and worse yet, I get the sense from watching the news and reading Gawker that these kinds of complaints are becoming more and more common as the years go by.
I guess I just wonder what the consequences of such a confrontational approach to working through disagreements — whether they happen in the classroom or the boardroom — will be on public education.
Will good practitioners — whether they are teachers, principals, guidance counselors or superintendents — just give up and start walking away from a failed profession in even higher numbers? Will talented kids see teaching as a broken career and not even consider spending their lives in the classroom?
For a long while, education was a noble, well-respected profession — and in a way, that sense of honor and duty has always been its ace-in-the-hole. People really are drawn to the whole “I may not make a lot of money, but I make a difference” vibe that comes along with working in schools.
But “making a difference” can’t possibly carry the same cachet in a world where this kind of over-the-top criticism happens, can it?
Like many accomplished educators, Bill Ferriter (@plugusin) wears a ton of professional hats. He’s a National Board Certified Teacher, Solution Tree author and presenter, an accomplished blogger and a senior fellow in the Teacher Leaders Network. He checks all of those titles at the door each morning, though, when he walks into his classroom.