"Loser Teachers"

I saw the headline that Donald Trump Jr. had blamed all the “loser teachers” for making it so hard to be a Republican these days and I laughed. He said we start with the socialist propaganda at birth, and I smiled as I thought about what socialism must look like in my daughter’s preschool class. Maybe the teacher is making them share snacks instead of giving 99% of the food to one kid, or maybe they have to take turns at the water fountain, or with their class jobs, or maybe these teachers are indoctrinating our students with something crazy like equitable bathroom access.

What would the younger Trump want our nation’s schools to do? I didn’t have the energy or the curiosity to actually research what he believes about schools, but I imagined a school with a lot of tweets and bullying. A place where some of the students got all of the recess time, while other kids were left cleaning the bathrooms. If we project an idea like tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to school policy, some students would be encouraged to force others to do their homework for them, reaping rewards from others while they spent so much of their time at recess.

I’m fine with being characterized as a socialist teacher because socialism seems like a perfectly reasonable way to run a classroom and a school.

Unfortunately, our school system on a macro level seems a lot more Trumpian than socialist; built on the pillars of “haves” and “have nots” more than a sharing economy. It occurred to me that Trump Jr.’s anger might have been misplaced, and he probably should have been praising schools for often buying into the same systems of inequity that his father pedals.

But then I switched gears from my little “loser teacher” bender and started thinking about what was going to happen next. I could see the hashtags forming as soon as I read it. I could picture teachers everywhere throwing their “World’s Best Teacher” mugs across their conservatively decorated classrooms. We were all warming up for what seemed like a perfect storm of twitter battles: us teachers have a huge chip, or crater, on our shoulders when it comes to defending our profession and most of us really dislike the current president and, in turn, his eldest son. I slid into my 5:00 sweatpants, grabbed a glass of the fancy boxed wine and got ready to read all the snark-filled vitriol aimed at baby potus.

Then, I paused. In a moment of clarity, I started thinking about all the people I have ever met in this profession. As a whole, I think this gig has some of the most remarkable people I have ever met. Most of my colleagues do the near impossible work of blending intellect, relationships, research, planning, and humor to help the little people in their classes learn something. But, and this is the harder part to admit, there are some teachers who don’t do that. I’m not talking about the bad days that all of us have or the times that even the most well-planned and well-meaning lesson falls short. Most of us have a lot of patience for a valiant effort, even when it fails. Instead, I’m suggesting that there are some people in this profession who probably should have left a long time ago, or never entered at all.

I’m talking about the teachers who are tossing out ill-planned packets full of rote busywork, the teachers who barely know the names of the students in their room or the teachers who find ways to constantly complain about “these kids” and all they can’t do. I’m talking about the deficit thinkers, the hope-drainers, and the people who get to the building late and leave early. I’m talking about the people who are not willing to change what they do even if what they do isn’t working. There are people who use their esteemed position with care, and they fight against the injustice and evil in the world from behind wrinkled button-up shirts and coffee stained pants. But there are others, regrettably, who don’t do that at all. They add to the injustice, the racial and gender disparities, by propping up an ugly status quo.

There are some “loser teachers” out there, though that isn’t the language I would choose. We do our profession, and our students, a huge disservice when we don’t admit that. I have seen great teachers time and time again work daily miracles in their classrooms, it makes sense that there is an opposite of that. In fact, I would assume this is true for any profession. I’m sure there are bad bankers, bad construction workers, and bad mailpeople. There are certainly times that we need to stand up for our profession, and it is always necessary to make sure teachers are treated fairly and rewarded for their work. Additionally, it’s equally important to admit that there are some teachers who aren’t working very hard. There are some teachers who are just giving any anti-teacher movement, like the one Lil Trump seems to be hyping, ammo for their annoying water guns. When people act like there is no such thing as bad teachers, I think they are unintentionally de-valuing the work that all of us do. I want to know that there are people who can’t do this so that we spend more time valuing and trying to retain the people who can. When we admit that there are bad teachers in classrooms, we are actually supporting the teachers who are doing the job well. We are implying that this is not a simple task, and it can’t be canned and replicated with ease. We are not shaming teachers by admitting that there are really bad ones, as some would have you believe, we are elevating those who are adding to our profession.

Yes, I’m admitting it Donny Jr.: there are “loser teachers” out there. They are just not the people you were thinking of in your dismissive and ill-informed comments. And, from now on, you and a lot of your friends should keep your opinions out of our schools. At least until you come to hang out in one for a while.