This past month the West Virginia teachers decided to walk out. The teachers were disheartened because they were to receive a 1% raise but would be required to pay more for health care. The legislators drug their feet and argued over the details, wondering why on Earth the teachers were so upset. WV ranks 48th in the country in teacher pay. Many teachers took the job knowing their salaries were not going to be high, but they were assured that their insurance benefits would make up the difference, so they settled, oh, I mean accepted that fact.

Now, I grew up in WV and have a niece who teaches in WV currently. When I graduated from college in the 80’s I searched for months for a teaching job. So, did many of my friends. Not one of us found one in WV. We all relocated to find jobs elsewhere. We did find jobs in Ohio, New Jersey, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, and elsewhere. We built our lives in these new states and made homes for ourselves and our families.

We have returned to WV to visit family, but we have seen sadness there. Businesses closed, buildings in disarray, unemployment high, underemployment the norm, and people looked tired and worn down by life. My son once asked me why everyone in my hometown looked so sad. I was shocked that a young boy would notice this. I wanted to say because they are worked to death and unvalued, that the leaders in WV do not seem to have a vision for their citizens, but I said that there were just a lot of elderly people and they sometimes look sad.

I have endured WV jokes. (yes, we wore shoes), my close friend lives in New York City, she has endured WV jokes. However, when all her “big city” friends got to know what a hardworking, ambitious, articulate, amazing person she was, their opinions of WV changed. The stigma of being from WV and being ignorant should not exist.

Every state, every city, and every school need great teachers. These are the people who make change. Education has long been the key to getting out of generational stagnation and poverty. Education is hope. Education is the light that should pull children toward a better life.

Teachers do way more than just stand in front of a classroom and lecture. (Even this image is old school in today’s classroom.) Here are just a few things I have either done or witnessed, do you still agree that teachers really deserve just a 1% raise or even a 5%?

  • Brought in snacks for students who had none
  • Provided shampoo, soap, toothpaste, deodorant in bathrooms for students so they would not feel self-conscious and could focus on learning instead
  • Created a closet of dresses, belts, and suit coats for students who had nothing to wear for formal occasions.
  • Brought in a washer/dryer to the school so students could have clean clothes
  • Took students’ clothes home to wash so they were not embarrassed by stains or smells
  • Bought school supplies, binders, markers, colored pencils, stickers, etc…
  • Drove students to local college campuses to open their world to higher education
  • Sat for hours filling out college applications with students
  • Provided translators during parent/teacher conferences for parents with limited English
  • Held parent/teacher conferences late into the night or at various times during school hours, so even parents with 2 jobs had the opportunity to come and talk to the teachers
  • Brought in shoes for students, cleats are expensive, dress shoes are a luxury
  • Hired a beautician to come to the school and wash & cut student’s hair because they were traumatized by an abusive situation during their last haircut
  • Sat with students during suicidal episodes, anxiety attacks, bi-polar explosions, abuse accusations, and police questioning
  • Took students to district competitions who would have missed it and their chance to show their academic prowess because of no means of transportation
  • Tutored students for free during lunch or afterschool so they could succeed
  • Attended funerals in the middle of the summer for a former student’s family member
  • Found scholarship money or donations for students who wanted to take band but could not afford an instrument
  • Started an all school free breakfast program for any student
  • Advocated to high school for students so they would be accepted to private high schools because they deserved the opportunity
  • Attended soccer games, track meets, choir concerts, band recitals, plays, basketball, baseball, and softball games

Believe me, teachers do these things and much more daily. Let’s respect teachers and education. It is time!

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.                           

Nelson Mandela

read more

Right now it feels as if the world is spiraling out of control. Everyone has an opinion about everything, whether they have accurate knowledge on the subject or not. I have been trying to understand some of the reasons for this discourse, maybe you will disagree, but here are my thoughts.

When I grew up, we were expected to work hard, listen to our parents and teachers, treat others how we wanted to be treated, and be respectful. Unfortunately, our current society’s pendulum has swung to the side of, what’s in it for me? Now, I am not saying that some self care isn’t important, but it seems to have gotten out of hand.

My mother never got a break, a day off, a relaxing day at a spa or a girls’ vacation, ever. Of course she could have used a reprieve from the monotony of raising 6 kids with little financial resources. My father never went on golf outings or fishing trips with the guys for the weekend either. It just wasn’t common in our home or even in our city where we were. We worked hard, loved America, loved our families, loved God, and put others needs in front of ours.

People said that it was okay to think of yourselfokay to put yourself first, okay to ask for what you needed. Of course this concept was more than okay, everyone needed a little re-setting of the mind and soul. The problem was that society took this idea and became self-absorbed. People craved attention and posessions. Technology and social media helped to self promote and angrily voice opinions. The original theory was a good one, but what has come of it, not so much.

As an educator, my hands are tied in many situations. I see parents bullying teachers and the system, Yes, I said it, bullying. They complain about everything. They believe that their child is never wrong, and they do not allow their child to be held responsible for their actions. Hello, welcome to life people! Believe me, I let a lot go in my classroom, but if you forget your homework and get a “missing” it is just a reminder to be more conscientious next time. It is to teach you responsibility, that’s it!

What do parents do instead? They say, you can’t do this to my child, they couldn’t help it, they had practice or forgot their book at school, etc. so the dreaded “missing” is unfair. They say things like, this is hurting my childthis is causing harm to my child. No, sorry to say, you are hurting your child. Allow them to take ownership and learn, allow them to grow from each experience, please.

Educators spend a lot of time and money getting their degrees. They continue their education, paying for it out of their own pockets, and participate in professional development during the school year. Educators plan exciting lessons, grade tests, spend hours on report card comments about each child, and use their own money for supplies. They are not in this field to write up your child and get him/her in trouble. (Okaythere are some of “those” teachers who have a fixed mindset, I know).

The point, accountability, responsibility, and respect for others are missing. We have to stop blaming others and reconnect with each other as human beings. Parents, please talk to your children, listen and pay attention to them, don’t overindulge them. Instead, empower them to advocate for themselves. We need to build character, not tear down each other. 

read more