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A Chasm of Words and Deeds

May 7, 2014

Janet Barresi wants you to know that she’s celebrating Teacher Appreciation Day. Or week. Or eternity. From yesterday’s press release, I’m not really sure.

Supt. Barresi remarks on National Teacher Appreciation Day

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 6, 2014) — In recognition of National Teacher Appreciation Day, Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi is urging all Oklahomans to show their gratitude.

“Teaching takes a special kind of person with great intelligence and heart. We’re lucky to have many truly remarkable teachers in Oklahoma, and I hope we all take the time to show our gratitude for them. Honestly, I’d hope every day is Teacher Appreciation Day,” Superintendent Barresi said.

This entire week, in fact, is observed nationally as Teacher Appreciation Week.

This morning, Barresi visited teachers at Shidler Elementary School in south Oklahoma City. It was a bit of a homecoming for the superintendent, who had done her student teaching there back in the 1970s.

With Principal Beth Steele leading the way, Barresi sat in on a remedial reading class. Reading Specialist Liz Davis employed an instructional reading program, Structured Language Basics, for a small group of children.

The next stop was the third-grade class of Alana LaFon, who led the class in a discussion about The Chocolate Touch, a book they have been reading. She asked students to use a finger to write on their foreheads how they would rate the book.

“Zero if you despise it,” the teacher said, “or 1, 2 or 3 if you like it.” To the untrained eye, no child appeared to write an invisible “0.”

The superintendent’s visit ended in a pre-kindergarten class. Kids sat, legs crossed, in a circle while teacher Amy Castleman led them through a host of words that include the letter “X.” The kids later paired off in groups of two for more word-centric questions.

They performed admirably. “Give your partner a ‘High-10!’” Ms. Castleman exclaimed.

Barresi was impressed by the teachers’ ingenuity and enthusiasm.

“Teachers are the heartbeat of our schools. They bring not only skill and knowledge, but also passion and enthusiasm,” she said. ”These teachers here at Shidler demonstrated that today. It’s invigorating to meet such great, dedicated educators. There are some wonderful things happening here.”

It’s one thing to say that you appreciate teachers and make a photo-op at a school. It’s something altogether to show it with your deeds. Here are a few examples of what not to do, if you really appreciate the people who spend every day with children – whether cameras are there or not. I’ll put 15 minutes on the clock and see how many I can think of without looking back at the last four years.

  1. People who appreciate teachers don’t reduce their effectiveness to algorithms.
  2. People who appreciate teachers don’t call those who oppose their agenda liberals and the education establishment.
  3. People who appreciate teachers don’t fudge math to propose unsustainable raises that would make some schools go broke.
  4. People who appreciate teachers don’t grandstand with speeches about being damned and losing another generation of Oklahoma’s children.
  5. People who appreciate teachers don’t hang them out to dry over student test scores.
  6. People who appreciate teachers don’t insist that 75 percent of all special education identifications are a mistake.
  7. People who appreciate teachers don’t cater to corporate education reformers.
  8. People who appreciate teachers don’t cover for the testing company’s mistakes one year then feign disgust the next.
  9. People who appreciate teachers don’t invite them to serve on committees and discussion groups and then completely disregard their input.
  10. People who appreciate teachers don’t foster a rigid culture in a state agency that makes employees act without compassion (until social media calls them out for it).
  11. People who appreciate teachers don’t lament the shortage of charter schools in the state or promote private school vouchers.

That’s 11 off the top of my head. It made me realize why I’m so tired. This is just the surface of what we’ve been dealing with since January 2011. At the rally in March, Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Keith Ballard spoke about the underlying current of disrespect that our profession faces from politicians. He’s absolutely right. Nobody is fooled by opportunistic press releases and pictures with students.

Today, if you’re a teacher, know that the majority of the state still appreciates and respects you. I hope someone tells you that and means it.

  1. May 7, 2014 at 7:51 am

    People who appreciate teachers don’t invite TFA into the state as a solution to teacher recruitment and retention.


  2. Jacob Rosecrants
    May 7, 2014 at 11:13 am

    I’ve been told that I’m appreciated by the only group of people that truly matter in all of this: my students. 🙂


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