Friday, August 23, 2013

5 Ways to Help NC Teachers

I've been thinking about public school teachers a lot this past week.  My daughter started middle school and my twins are in separate classes for the first time in their lives: their teachers are going to make a huge difference in how they are able to cope with these transitions.  I also attended a Moral Monday gathering in Burnsville and felt slapped in the face by the stark reality of how the new laws cut our teachers off at the knees.

Moral Monday in Burnsville, NC.
Yes, I can grumble loudly.  Yes, I can write letters to my representatives.  (We all know how that goes.)  Yes, I can vote in the next election in two years.  And judging by the widespread, non-partisan outrage about what is being done to our public education system, I believe things will get better in the future... but until then, dear Heavens above, we need to do what we can to make sure our teachers do not give up hope and quit their jobs.  We need to encourage, despite the dismal outlook, our best and brightest to go into education (though the NC Teacher Fellowship program has been cut).

I often say I have more ideas in a day than are good ones, but here are
5 Ideas to Help NC Teachers Right Now:
(and thereby really helping NC children)

#1  Parents, all that stuff you just signed saying you'd do with your kid this year...  DO IT.  And for crying out loud, get your kid to school on time.  If the teacher asked you to read 15 minutes with your kid every night... Do it.  Wish you could pay someone a dollar to listen to your kid read sometimes?  (We all get there.)  Well, are there any middle-schoolers in your neighborhood or extended family?

People without school-aged kids:  Ask a parent how you can help.*  Can you invite a neighbor-kid over to read to you for 15 minutes every Monday? Can you Skype with your niece/nephew/grandchild/church-friend and have them read a book to you every Thursday at 4?  Can you come 15 minutes early (or stay late) at a Church event and have a kid read to you?

Teachers feel successful when their students succeed.  
The ultimate goal is not "teacher success" but "student success."

#2 - That wish-list the teachers sent home?  Get something on it.  Already feel maxed out financially on the basic back-to-school expenses?  Don't throw that list away, tell a *Non-Parent who wants to know how they can help and maybe they can get something on that list or donate it.  (EYMS could use reams of color copy-paper.)

#3 - Write a thank-you note.   Do you know how terrible we have become about actually taking the time to hand-write notes -- and because of that, do you know how much it means to a person to be thanked?  So often we think we "deserve" a good public education and good teachers -- which is true -- but we should be thankful that we have that expectation and we should pass on our gratitude to those who are doing the hard work.  I sub in a few of the elementary schools, and I'm hear to tell you, I do not know how an elementary teacher survives a day without an assistant (these are vital positions budget cuts are reducing every year).  Even the "worst" teachers go above and beyond to deal with the high expectations that have been placed on them, despite waning resources to accomplish the desired goals.  So, take five minutes out of your day to write them a thank-you note.  I'll bet 90% of you could not do what they are expected to do every day.  I did at one point in my life, but I'm not sure I could any more.

#4 - Make sure you are registered to vote (and I can't even get into the new voter restrictions in NC...) and pay attention to candidates' former voting records and their position on educational issues.  Listen to teachers and teachers' organizations when they tell you what are helpful and unhelpful reforms and laws.  When we help our public schools, we build a stronger nation.

#5 - Take a teacher a meal.  The beginning of the school year is not unlike having 20+ new babies, and we all know how we respond to people with new babies-->We bring them food.  (I would recommend doing this for someone you have a personal relationship with, obviously.)  Often teachers are mothers/fathers themselves -- and if you're teacher on an NC salary (46th lowest in the Union), there's no way the other parent doesn't have a full-time job too. So, teachers stay late at school (coaching, leading clubs, attending meetings, planning -- all while trying to force encourage their own children to finish their school work) and get home to a cold kitchen and hungry kids.  Meal preparation is one of the first things to go.  (I know one teacher who, over the summer, has put up something like 30 frozen meals in anticipation of the school year. Not everyone is that crazy organized though.)

So, do you have a teacher who lives in your neighborhood, is in your extended family, goes to your church, is in book club with you, or has a kid on your kid's sports team?  Do you have a co-worker whose spouse is a teacher?  Don't ask them if they'd like a meal, tell them you are bringing them one.  Or just hand them some containers of home-made but frozen something-or-other that they can save and heat up after a long day.

And have y'all see this site?  Pretty cool if you want to get super organized about it:  Take Them A Meal


On Monday, her first day of middle school, I dropped my daughter off in the drizzle. A male teacher waited for her with an umbrella that she stepped out under. "You nervous?" he asked. "A little," she admitted. "You've got no reason to be," he assured her as he passed her off to the next teacher who waited for her with his umbrella. "I got her," the next teacher said, keeping the umbrella over her until she reached the overhang. 

What a beautiful metaphor for the beginning of the year and what our teachers do for our children. 

How can we be the umbrella over their heads?