I wonder why…..

So here is what I am wondering.

Given the increase in heart disease in the US, why isn’t everybody bashing doctors?

Given the economic near-collapse and ongoing unemployment crisis, why doesn’t everyone have an opinion about how to improve our “failing banks”?

Why aren’t the words “Wall Street” and “accountable” ever uttered in the same sentence?

Given the prevalence of frivolous lawsuits clogging up our judicial system, why doesn’t every cocktail party include at least one guy starting his comments with “See, here’s what I would do to fix the legal system….”

Why is it only teachers and schools that have become the targets of everyone’s most critical observations?

I have noticed for a very long time that as soon as I mention that I am a teacher, I immediately get two reactions, one right after the other.  The first is something along the lines of, “Wow, you’re a saint!  I could NEVER handle all those kids!”  But a second or two later, whoever it is I am talking to invariable launches into a scathing critique of the public schools. The curriculum, the homework, the discipline, the lack of discipline, the bullies, the report card, the bus ride, the bad lunches.  You name it, people feel compelled to share their observations and frustrations with me, a teacher.

I’ll never forget the time that I was sitting at a high school graduation party, at a moment when one would think we might be celebrating the success of the public school system.  As I nibbled at my cake, two of the men at the party started a conversation about the total lack of behavior control in “the schools”.  One of them, a car dealer, sipped his beer and launched into a description of how he would impose order in a classroom.  Now bear in mind, this guy hadn’t set foot inside a classroom full of students in at least 30 years.  But he KNEW how to do what he readily assumed I could not.

And I have a hundred examples of being lectured on our failing schools by people who not only don’t teach, but who don’t even have kids.  What on earth makes them feel qualified to judge the amount of homework that we give each night, or the math program that we are using?

I don’t get it.

Schools and teachers and principals get bashed every day on Facebook, on Twitter, in my email (why do they send these things to ME??), and face to face. Every day.  I have been lectured by doctors, accountants, engineers, veterinarians, car dealers, car mechanics and a plumber or two.  They all speak with total confidence, total assurance.  They have no doubt that they would know exactly how to make all these low test scores go away in a flash. They would stop the bullies in a minute, make all the kids behave, get every child in every classroom to immediately sit still and magically understand fractions.

I don’t get it.

More importantly, I don’t like it one bit.

You see, there is a third and final reaction that I always get after people find out that I am a teacher.  Right after they praise me for my service and then proceed to tell me what a generally bad job we all do, everyone always finishes with a sincere, “But don’t take it personally!”

Well, I do.

What I really would like to see is this.

Until the day when you all feel confident marching up to your dentist and critiquing the high cost of the root canal, please just shut up.  Until you feel secure enough to launch into a diatribe about the incredibly poor quality of the American health care system with every doctor you meet at a barbecue, then please just shut your mouth.

Your one personal experience with one teacher one day two decades ago does not actually give you the knowledge, the expertise or the right to generalize to the entire educational system in this country.

If you got your public school diploma and you have a job now, all you really need to say to me is, “Thank you!  How can the public help to make this better for the kids?”  ASK us what the schools need, don’t tell us.  LISTEN to us when we try to tell you what is working and what isn’t.  RESPECT us enough to stop complaining to us about our pay, our pensions and our cushy vacation schedules.

And for the love of all that is holy, before you launch into your next diatribe about how easy it would be for you to right all the wrongs in the educational system, come spend a week with one of us and our students.

You’re invited to my classroom to learn, to listen and to ask good questions.  But until you come, please, please, please.  Just shut up.


5 responses to this post.

  1. Well said.


  2. I think it’s like this: every kid in the world knows exactly how to parent properly. Ask them, they’ll tell you. Mostly, so do single adults. It’s only when they have to actually DO it, that they start to realize how much they don’t know. I feel it’s the same with teaching. Having been there, I know how hard it is, but when I was in high school, I had a whole ‘nuther view on the subject, I’m sure.

    And people actually do complain about doctors and lawyers and policemen at parties, in the grocery store, etc. without checking to see if the person(s) they’re speaking with (or their family members) work in those areas. And, being a guy down here in the south, other guys, even strangers, will walk up to me and start telling me what’s wrong with the liberals or the blacks or the jews or modern women, without ever considering that I might disagree violently with their viewpoints.

    I have a theory (based on absolutely no facts) that some people (often men) get stuck at an emotional age and never get any older. That age is different for different people, but it’s always 13 or younger.

    Everyone but me, of course…


    • Oh, I think you are so right about the “stuck” part, and I absolutely think that it is somewhere in the mid teens! (at best).
      I guess it doesn’t surprise me when people complain about various groups, but what makes it so appalling for me as a teacher is that they do it KNOWING that I am a teacher! They don’t start until after they ask me “What do you do?”
      And I can take it from kids (every student I have ever had thinks he or she could do it better than I do, that’s what they are supposed to think!) It just bugs me from supposedly polite, civil, related-to-me adults.
      And I’m sure you don’t think my words were so beautiful this time…..! Both sides of that feisty Italian soul!


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