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Opinion | A letter to public school teachers

The tragedy in Texas should remind us again that America’s public school teachers are criminally undervalued.


Dear teachers, 

Thank you. 

I feel like you need someone to say that. That you need to be reminded that there are still a whole bunch of us out here who appreciate what you do every day. The work you put in. The compassion you show to kids. The overtime you never get paid for. 

There’s a not-so-vocal majority out here who sees it and who appreciates it. 

And after the events of this week, I am reminded again of the unimaginable bravery of so many public school teachers – bravery that I’m not even sure they know they possess until they’re required to summon it – who are willing to place themselves between their children – OUR children – and a madman with a gun. 

It happened again in Texas this week. It has happened an embarrassing number of times before that. 

Family members of Irma Garcia and Eva Mireles, who were each killed in the massacre at a Uvalde elementary school, said law enforcement officials told them that the bodies of Garcia and Mireles were found in their classroom, shielding their students. 

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And the thing is, of all the teachers I know, I can’t think of a one who wouldn’t do the same. Because I know how much they care about their students. You can see it in their faces when they talk about their kids and their successes and struggles. You can see it in the way they sacrifice time with their own families to help struggling students or coach a parent. 

Which is why it has been so unendingly weird to me to watch the casual vilification of public school teachers by rightwing politicians and rightwing voters over the past couple of years. 

A couple of years ago, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, somehow you guys were some of the laziest people on earth because you “wanted” to do online classes. Apparently some dopes out there believed online learning – or the ultra-popular blended learning, which left teachers creating two lesson plans every single day – was an easier option for you. 

Never mind that the same people complaining were primarily doing so because they had been forced to spend an extra hour or two with their own kids every day and couldn’t take it. 

But then you went from lazy to the leaders of the liberal mob as you “indoctrinated” children with your teachings of “woke” history.  

(Little known fact: “woke” is defined in 2022 as “accurate, not whitewashed.”) 

We had bubbas and bettys showing up to school board meetings all over the country screaming about CRT and reverse racism. And of course, rightwing politicians, always in desperate search of a culture war since they have no actual policies, jumped on the bandwagon. 

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Before long you were no longer allowed to choose how to teach your classes and thousands of you faced disciplinary actions because some Fox News-drunk parent complained that you told his son that the founding fathers owned slaves. 

As if that indignity wasn’t enough, many of these same people moved on to basically calling you pedophiles. Or suggesting that you were using your books with words and reality to “groom” children for pedophiles. 

(Little known fact: “grooming” is defined in 2022 as “teach to read, make less ignorant than parents.”)

There were literally book burnings. In America. In 2022. 

Thousands upon thousands of books have been banned from school libraries across America. Teachers have been publicly vilified for reading lists that parents found objectionable in some manner – usually by relaying a real-world scenario that helped students to better understand their fellow humans. 

At the same time, throughout red states, the march of charter schools owned by private companies continues. And one of the top selling points used to push these email scams in building form is that they can hire and fire teachers at will. As if the problem with education in places like Alabama and Tennessee and Mississippi – all states with a noted history of overtly racist education funding practices – are the teachers not caring enough. 

And so, it’s understandable that you’ve had enough of this BS. You’re quitting in droves. And who in the hell could blame you? 

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But before you go, or even if you stay, I do want you to know that you’re appreciated. By a whole bunch of us sane, normal, closed-mouth-breathing citizens. Those of us who believe firmly in the mission of America’s public schools, who know the good they’ve done and fear a country without an educated voting base. 

And I’m sorry for these other clowns. Sorry that you’ve had to endure their insults on top of everything else. Sorry that you have been so undervalued. Sorry that they’re probably going to try to make you carry guns now. Sorry that you can’t just go to work and teach our kids well. 

You deserve so much better than you’ve been getting. For what you do. For the way you care for our kids. For the environment in which you work. For the bravery that you have shown. 

You deserve more. 

But for all of us who can read and write and navigate life a little better because of you, we can at least say thank you.

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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