Politically Correct Teaching.

Today was a long day. Our staff meeting ran late, my stove and oven still are out of commission, and my to-do list seemed to continually grow like dark matter expanding in the universe.

On my way to find a productive working spot this evening, I caught part of the senate debate between Kay Hagan and Thom Tillis. In a word, it was disgusting and I am embarrassed.

I was so frustrated listening to this “debate” that I had to turn off NPR. After about 15-20 minutes, I was so tired of hearing the “he said/she said” slander that was bouncing back and forth between the candidates and I quickly became outraged that neither candidate was actually proposing solutions to any problems.

“Tillis says teachers don’t care about kids, they just care about their jobs and pensions…HIS WORDS, not mine!”

Oh, okay, you say those are his words, Ms. Hagan? How about you use YOUR OWN WORDS and tell me what you think teachers do care about. I can tell you that as a teacher, I care more about my kids than anything else (truly, more than anything else — I love them like my own the moment they cross the threshold of my classroom door on the first day of school and I will love them until they are grown up and have third graders of their own), but please, tell me, what do you think we care about? Have you talked to teachers in public schools who are investing their lives to educating the children of North Carolina? Let me tell you, this job is hard and not for the faint of heart, and I’m confident that there are many teachers out there teaching because they’re doing it to see kids have more opportunities to better their futures.

“Two numbers: 7 and 10. 7: 7% pay increase — that’s the highest in a generation! We’re nationally competitive in the teaching field now. 10: 10 years Hagan was in office and did nothing for teacher pay.”

We’re nationally competitive? We’re 48th in the nation when it comes to our per pupil spending. I don’t even have enough composition books to give all my kids, and those black and white marble notebooks are like 4 for $1.00 at Office Max. Since North Carolina is so nationally competitive, I’m guessing that’s why Houston Independent School District hosted job fairs in our state’s capital to try and snag some of NC’s finest? I read more articles in the last school year about teachers leaving the classroom either for new jobs or to move to new states than I’ve ever read before. The mass exodus is real (and cutting Teaching Fellows from the budget wasn’t the brightest idea in keeping the state’s best). Also, let me just say that your 7% pay increase statement is misleading. The average might be 7%, but that certainly isn’t what everyone received. I am fortunate enough to receive a decent pay increase, but I know for a fact that there are talented, wonderful, seasoned teachers I work with at my school who received little to NO pay raise. Yep, that’s right, I know people who got as much as a whopping $50 added to their paychecks.

$50.

Mr. Tillis, what is a seasoned teacher with a family and piled up bills supposed to do with a $50 pay increase? What message does that send to those veteran teachers?

My temper continued to rage as I listened to these two adults “debate” topics like immigration and women’s rights and minimum wage. The whole time I was listening to this throw-my-opponent-under-the-bus-fest, my heart broke a little.

I’m currently teaching my third graders about government. I’ve searched high and low for great articles and picture books and informational texts and graphic organizers to show my kids how our government works. The activity we used today to kick off our unit called for students to work in groups using chart paper to brainstorm ways that the government helps its citizens. Students can use pictures and/or words to answer why government is important to society, and all I could think of when I listened to that shameful exchange of words that NPR called a debate was how I felt like I was teaching my kids the wrong things regarding our government.

Kids are so innocent. They have such an unadulterated, fresh perspective on concepts and ideas that we adults constantly taint with corruption and injustice. While I circulated during the group brainstorm session, I heard beautiful things about government keeping its citizens safe, how government let them go to school and get an education, and even how important the different people who work for government can be to our communities (needless to say, I can’t wait for us to share tomorrow!). I want my kids to see that government is established to keep us safe and organized so that everyone can have a great quality of life, but I’m realizing that maybe that’s too naïve of me.

Maybe instead I should let my kids listen to that debate. Maybe I should teach my kids that politics and government aren’t really that beneficial to society, but rather it’s just a game people play to gain power and demean others. Maybe I should stop doing compliment circle and teaching kids how to be kind to each other and help each other and be problem-solvers independently and in a group. Maybe I shouldn’t teach tolerance and how to question everything and stand up for what’s right.

Well, this is me speaking out for what I think is right: to politicians everywhere, stop arguing. Stop with the he said/she said run-around. Stop interrupting (maybe y’all should read this book I do with my kids every year).

Stop interrupting and start listening to what your constituents have to say. Start listening to what teachers have to say in regards to educational policy and what women have to say about women’s rights and what immigrants have to say about immigration. When you listen, you can problem-solve, and we can eventually make our cities, states, and country better than before.

At least that’s what I’m teaching my eight-year-olds.

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