A bunch of teachers

I am sitting tonight in a youth hostel, on beautiful Martha’s Vineyard.  I am surrounded by a group of teachers. We are enjoying our dinner, our glasses of wine, our conversations. We are tired from a long day of touring the sights on the Martha’s Vineyard Heritage Trail, which commemorates the accomplishments of African American and Native American people on the Island.

We are here as part of a federal grant which is designed to improve our understanding of American History.  We are spending two weeks visiting various sites, including the Old South Meeting House, the Massachusetts Historical Society and Martha’s Vineyard.  We are hearing lectures from various historians, college professors, researchers.  We are taking notes, creating lessons, reading primary sources from every conceivable web site.

It has been an amazing and fascinating two weeks.

Part of what I have enjoyed most is the conversation between and among all of the teachers. We represent many various districts, grade levels, life experiences and educational philosophies.  We are having a great time sharing our opinions!

One thing that I have noticed, in my two weeks of long talks with my colleagues, is how often teachers are lamenting about budget cuts. How often we are expressing our fears about the economic impact on our schools.

But its a funny thing: I am not hearing any complaints about salary, hours, working conditions.  What I DO hear is a lot of complaining about large class sizes, cuts in programs, loss of athletics and activities. I do hear worries expressed about a lack of materials, an inability to get new books, a lack of up to date technology, a shortage of support personnel for special ed programs.

My teacher friends are here on this wonderful island, having a great time. We are learning and sharing and laughing together. We are comparing notes, swapping out-of-control-kid stories and getting to know each other.  We are feeling supported in our quest to improve our craft.

We are worried about the future. We are sharing ideas about how to fund programs, increase community support, avoid more layoffs. We are talking about coupons, sales and book swaps. We scrimp, we save, we find on-line freebies.

I am saddened to realize that the world outside continues to think of us as a group of manufacturing laborers, grinding out a product and demanding higher wages.  I am discouraged when I continue to read about our “broken educational system” and our whining unions.

If I ruled the world, my friends, we would live in a country that valued education as much as military might.  We would live in a land where the government provided a specific number of dollars for the education of each child, no matter where that child lived.  Where every teacher was able to earn a decent salary, no matter where that teacher worked.  Where every parent could look at their children and think, “I can give you the best future, with the best education, of any child in the world.”

If I ruled the world, everyone who lived in this beautiful country would understand that we all need to pay in, that we all need to take care of our kids, that we all need to teach the next generation to think and create and understand.  If I ruled the world, teachers who study history for two weeks in the summer would delight in the realization that their new knowledge would be shared with the kids they love, no matter the cost.

If I ruled the world, a group of dedicated teachers would spend their time together talking about all of the new and exciting tools that they have to teach the kids, instead of talking about how few resources will be left after the next inevitable round of budget cuts.


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