Friday, May 13, 2011

When others think they can do what we do - only better

When others think they can do what we do – only better

I recently sent my blog posts to an editor of our local newspaper.  Here are some of his comments:  “It’s overwritten…tighten up the verbiage…write it less like you talk…less cliches…”

His comments, in my opinion, were accurate and constructive.  He’s right.  I do tend to write like I talk, which at times borders on stream of consciousness.  Not in the James Joyce sense – more like Howie Mandel.  He wrapped up his comments with a nice compliment, “the content is novel” but then – near the end – he did the unimaginable.  He dropped the W-Bomb.  “Some might call parts of it WHINING.”  

Accusing a teacher, or any government employee for that matter, of whining is tantamount to a child telling his mother she’s LAZY because she won’t wash his favorite shirt at 11:00 at night so he can wear to school the next day!  Telling a teacher he/she is whining falls into the modern day category of, “Oh, no you didn’t!”

It was the second time in the past two months that someone used the W-word to describe something I had written.  After thinking about it for a couple of days, it dawned on me why people feel that way about teachers (and other government employees) when they speak out about the fate of their profession.  

In one of my earlier blogs, I made the assertion that the general public had a “love-hate” relationship with teachers, fueled by images and depictions of teachers in movies and the media.  I’ve even speculated that the current economic conditions and the fact that the teaching profession has not been as heavily hit by job cuts might have something to do with the negative perception of teachers, too.  Now I realize neither one of those is the primary factor.  Before the “big reveal” I am going to go all Ryan Secrest and prolong the suspense with a little rhetorical Q&A.  “Let’s dim the lights…”
  • When military generals testify in front of members of Congress that troops need more training and newer weapons, are they whining?
  • When a police chief asks city council members for more officers to fight crime, are they whining?
  • When doctors – working in a free clinic – report that government regulations and tedious paperwork hamper their ability to give patients top medical care, are they whining?
Here’s the rub.  All “civil servants” –  military, police, fire fighters, teachers, city clerks, social workers, etc. – make their living off the tax dollars of “others”.   Government employees are often criticized  because  “others” think they can do what we do – only better – and they accuse us of whining when we speak out.  

For the most part, military, police and firefighters get a free pass because these brave men and women risk their lives. Doctors aren’t whiners because they have a skill and level of educational achievement that most will never obtain nor can even fathom.  But teachers, city clerks, and other government workers are viewed differently because most people think they can do what we do – only better.

There is a sign in front of the desk of the clerk who handles the water bill payments in our town.  The sign reads something like:  I understand you may be upset, but if you yell at me, swear at me, pound on my desk or make any type of threat, a sheriff’s deputy will be called

People often treat school secretaries, attendance clerks, cafeteria workers and teachers aides who supervise children before and after school with the same anger, frustration and disdain. They don't value the important role these people have in the lives of hundreds of children.  They don't see the love, patience, kindness and understanding displayed toward kids every day, despite what "others" do or say about them. 

Perhaps people treat government employees with such contempt and disrespect because of another unfortunate adjective.  Many view us as civil servants – with an emphasis on the word “servant”.  Our sole purpose is to serve them, and we better serve them when, where and how they want to be served.  After all, their taxes pay my bills. But that is another blog for another time.

If whining is caring about children and their future, then I am a whiner.  If whining is wanting the best tools and resources to teach an increasingly diverse population, then I am a whiner.  If whining is not wanting to have to continue to make do with less and less resources, then I am a whiner.  If whining is informing the general public that teachers and other government employees are feeling the financial pinch, too, then I am a whiner.

Jimmy Buffet once said, "We need more fruit cakes in this world..." people who aren't afraid to stand out in a crowd.  I think we need more whiners in education.

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