Washington—AFT President Randi Weingarten offers her reflections as Teacher Appreciation Week comes to a close.
"America's teachers are extraordinary. For teachers, their work is a calling—we are women and men who dedicate our lives to ensuring that every child can not only dream his or her dreams but achieve them. There is nothing more gratifying to a teacher than seeing a child transform in the classroom, develop a lifelong love of learning, and master the skills and concepts he or she will need to succeed in life.
"Teaching is a hugely complex and challenging profession. It's also an art—a delicate balance of instruction, motivation, inspiration, caring, toughness, passion, curiosity, leadership and humor. I often say that teachers are physicians of the mind and must combine the skills of Albert Einstein, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King and Tony Soprano.
"During Teacher Appreciation Week, we pause to honor those teachers who inspired us and who continue to inspire and shape our children. Teachers deserve this appreciation. But let's also listen to what teachers say they and their students need to help their students reach their true potential.
"Budget cuts and harsh austerity continue to starve our classrooms of resources, increasing class sizes and cutting art, music, preschool, sports, enrichment, and after-school programs and services. The fixation on testing is draining the joy out of learning, narrowing our curriculum and turning our schools into test-prep factories. The Common Core State Standards, which hold such potential to transform the DNA of teaching and learning and to prepare all children for career, college and life, are now in danger as states and districts rush to attach stakes to Common Core tests while failing to provide teachers with the tools and resources they need to make these instructional shifts. And too many policymakers believe that teachers should simply be seen and not heard—forced to implement changes or the latest fad without their input, and then blamed and publicly pummeled when these ill-conceived measures fail. Teacher dissatisfaction is now at a 25-year high, and half of all teachers leave the profession in their first five years of teaching.
"It's time to change course. Teachers want a voice in the decisions that affect their profession and the children they teach; they want to be treated as the professionals they are—both professionally and economically. Teachers want to make teaching not just a passion but a career, and they want the time, tools and resources to be able to do their jobs. Let's provide every public school with the resources it needs to create safe, collaborate learning environments. Let's wrap health and community services around schools to address the social, health and emotional needs of our children. Let's focus on an enriching curriculum and project-based learning opportunities, and put an end to the testing fixation. Let's focus on a real implementation plan to make sure the Common Core lives up to its potential. And let's stop the blame game. That's how we can show our appreciation of teachers—not just today but every day."