Recently, after a long work day, I joined a group of eight other educators. They came to the table for a rare opportunity. Erin Lenz, Idaho Teacher of the Year, wanted to listen. Given charge of gathering input about the needs, direction, and strengths of our educational system, she asked those in the trenches to speak.
At the table were representatives of those working with our most struggling and gifted learners, both primary and intermediate students. There were veterans and novices, administration and counselors. Maybe most important to note is that these same individuals are parents and grandparents. They share the single most significant motive for creating the best educational system possible: The well-being of their very own children. They spoke of what they wanted for their grandchildren and children, their students, and their profession.
For several hours at the end of a long work day, nearing the end of a long week, they gave more. They did it because they are committed to our children. Period. No pay, no recognition, just commitment. Erin asked them why they were willing to do so. "Because we have hope that things can be better."
Our teachers aren't continuing to show up in the classroom to simply get through the day and collect a paycheck. There are easier ways to make more. They show up because they want to make a difference for our children and add to the future and greatness of our nation.
The conversation wasn't about more pay. It wasn't about insurance or benefits either. In fact, as one teacher put it, "You can even pay me less if you will just respect me and what I do more. Lower the class sizes. Give me the resources I need. Praise me more, and scrutinize me less."
What they really talked about was how to meet the needs of all our children, and how that can best be measured. They considered how they could do the very best job possible for our students. What would the curriculum, instruction, scheduling, environment, and support services look like?
I left the conversation before it was over. I was off to be a mom and cheer for my son and the Viking football team. I left with an overwhelming sense of respect for those whose company I keep. I wish I could have recorded the conversation I had just heard. I would play it for those who question the integrity, quality, or commitment of our educators.
I had the pleasure of sitting beside a father at a recent PTA meeting. A topic was on the table for discussion and input was being gathered. This gentleman simply said, "What do the teachers think? They are with my child more hours in the day than I am. I trust them, and I support them."
That statement meant more than he will ever know. It was soul food to teachers who are feeling a little beat up as of late.
The intent of this letter is to highlight an example of the quality, heart, and commitment of our educators. Thank you to all of the individuals in this community who continue to support our schools and our teachers. The recent passing of the bond, the community volunteers in the buildings, and kind words from our parents all remind us that indeed there is hope. I continue to be proud to be an educator and would choose no other path.
Kristin Gorringe is principal at Bryan Elementary.