Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Happy Teacher Day: USED Gets Something Right

Having hammered the current administration for their weak-sauced Presidential proclamation for Teacher Appreciation Week, I feel it's only fair to acknowledge when they get something right.

John King popped up in our inboxes with a message that is almost baloney-free. Here are the good parts:

This week, our nation recognizes and honors teachers across the country for their tireless efforts on behalf of our students, everywhere from small towns and suburbs, to rural communities and Tribal lands, to big cities. Teachers have one of the most challenging and fulfilling jobs — literally shaping and changing lives.

If you are a teacher, or if you know one, you know the long hours and hard work that go into designing challenging lessons, guiding students and providing feedback, engaging with parents and families, collaborating with colleagues, reflecting on instruction, and staying abreast of research.

But much of the work you do also is about the intangible — it’s about fostering that almost indescribable, and yet unmistakable, spark between you and your students. It’s there when you see the potential in every student who walks through your door, even when he may not yet recognize his own gifts.

He checks in with his personal story, and then gets back to the appreciating:

Teaching is truly the profession that launches every career. Thank you for sharing with your students your passion for world languages, music, literature, math, science, theater, history, and myriad other subjects. Thank you for empowering our youth and for furthering social justice by never being satisfied until every child has access to an excellent education.

Okay, sliding a little off message there, but still good.

We understand that teacher voice is a crucial part of conversations that impact your classroom and your profession, and we are committed to ensuring you are supported so you can do your best work on behalf of our children every day.

Today and every day, we celebrate and thank you for the vital role that you play in supporting students and strengthening the future of our nation.

The whole business comes attached to this video that USED released today


And it's... nice. It focuses on the things we actually value. Not one kid saying, "I love my teacher because she helps me score well on the standardized test" or a single blurb about "student achievement" or "higher standards." I can't even tell if these are real teachers, TFA-ers, or paid actors. 

And yes, talk is cheap, and these nice words would be more impressive if they came from a department that pursued policies that aligned with these nice words. It leaves me wondering if they are cynical or clueless, whether they don't care that their words don't match their policy goals or if they are foolish enough to think that somehow the words and policies do match.

That's fine. For today, I'm going to be happy enough that they managed to say something nice about teachers without using it as an opportunity to push their own agenda or to criticize the teachers they're supposed to be appreciating. For today, they managed to say some nice things about teachers, and for today, I will accept it. 


  1. Just watched the King of the USDOE being interviewed on PBS. Did someone lobotomize this man? He went on to recount his now classic tale about the public school teacher(s) he had literally "saved his life" during a legitimately trying time in his young life. Not once did he mention being "saved" by their test-prep program, their no-excuses disciplinary approach, or the VAM evaluation program used to pressure his teacher(s) into working so hard. No; it was all about the plays, the field trips, the non-academic enrichment, and the atmosphere that made school the only place in his young life where he could feel like a kid. Why oh why does this seemingly intelligent and soft spoken man so incredibly detached from the ways in which he has so vemenetly contributed to the destruction of such welcoming and enriching and understanding and forgiving classroom environments

    1. Maybe his early trauma has caused a distortion of his reality?