Opinion Blog


Rick Hess Straight Up

Education policy maven Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute think tank offers straight talk on matters of policy, politics, research, and reform. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

American Crisis

By Guest Blogger — February 12, 2014 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Note: Last week and this week RHSU is featuring guest bloggers from the National Network of State Teachers of the Year. For more on NNSTOY, check them out here. Today’s post is from Joe Fatheree. Joe is an instructor of technology for the nationally recognized multimedia program at Effingham High School in Effingham, IL, and was Illinois teacher of the year in 2007.

“These are the times that try men’s souls,” are words that were penned by Thomas Paine as he tried desperately to revive the spirit of a nation and the men serving in the Continental Army in 1776. The blunt honesty of that opening line painted a realistic picture of the political landscape of his time. The country was still in the early stages of the revolution. Questions and doubt hid behind every door. Morale was at an all-time low. Opinions varied as support for the war flickered like a candle in the night. The entire world watched as the idea that “all men were created equal” dangled precariously like the Sword of Damocles. Kings, despots, and tyrants hoped that it would fall. The commoner, on the other hand, prayed with all his might that the voice of liberty would not be silenced. The colonists needed a leader to rally the people. That man was Thomas Paine. He published thirteen articles known as The American Crisis from 1776-1783. Paine used his pen to inspire a nation to fight at all costs to defend the idea of freedom. He believed the concept that all men should enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness was so fundamental that he signed the articles Common Sense. John Adams said of Thomas Paine, “Without the pen of the author of Common Sense, the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain.”

The Sword of Damocles has once again been raised. Unfortunately, today it hangs over the head of the American teacher. For many educators, these are the times that try men’s souls. Teachers are not only faced with the challenges of implementing new learning standards and evaluation models, but must also take care of the physical and emotional needs of every student under their watch. Today’s teacher is required to have a detailed understanding of the Common Core State Standards and the Danielson Framework for Teachers, create differentiated lessons to meet the needs of diverse learners and establish open lines of communications with parents and community leaders, capture and interpret data streams that actively measure student growth over time, have the ability to recognize deficiencies and immediately create and implement strategies for correction, provide remediation, encourage collaboration, promote creativity, build enrichment activities for the gifted, understand changes in school law, implement multiple forms of technology into the curriculum, understand and ensure that multiple IEP’s are followed to the letter, and establish an effective discipline policy that promotes respect but does not curb individuality among many other duties that change on an almost daily basis. All of this is done under the ever-growing threat of shrinking budgets, layoffs, and the loss of retirement benefits. Teachers also face the all-real danger of protecting the nation’s children during natural disasters and school shootings. It’s hard to be a teacher in today’s world. They live in a land of broken promises and moving targets. Morale is at an all-time low, and yet it is a time when our students need us the most.

So what do can teachers about it? I think the answer can be found in the writings of Thomas Paine. He wrote:

The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.

In essence, he was challenging the citizens of the countryside and the soldiers of the Continental Army to stand up and be counted. As teachers we must do the same. I would like to encourage teachers to get involved. Here are some ways to do so.

1. Become an active voice in your building. Schedule a meeting with your building principal and discuss ways that you can be involved in the school improvement process.
2. Invite parents, community members, and the press into your classroom as often as possible. This really helps strengthen the bond between the parents and the teacher. It is also a great way to celebrate academic achievement and showcase the work your students are doing.
3. Join an online community of professional educators and get involved in the discussion. There are a myriad of different platforms that are filled with information that ranges from educational policy to technology integration.
4. Contact your elected officials and let them know how you feel about policy at the state and national levels. They need to hear your voice, and know how policy is impacting your students.

Teachers, America needs you now more than ever before. They need to hear the sound of your voices advocating for their children.

--Joe Fatheree

The opinions expressed in Rick Hess Straight Up are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

Classroom Technology Webinar How Pandemic Tech Is (and Is Not) Transforming K-12 Schools
The COVID-19 pandemic—and the resulting rise in virtual learning and big investments in digital learning tools— helped educators propel their technology skills to the next level. Teachers have become more adept at using learning management
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Building Teacher Capacity for Social-Emotional Learning
Set goals that support adult well-being and social-emotional learning: register today!


Content provided by Panorama
Jobs October 2021 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Tiny Wrists in Cuffs: How Police Use Force Against Children
An investigation finds children as young as 6 and a disproportionate amount of Black children have been handled forcibly by police officers.
15 min read
Jhaimarion, 10, reacts as he listens to his mother, Krystal Archie talking with an Associated Press reporter in Chicago on Sept. 23, 2021. Archie’s three children were present when police, on two occasions, just 11 weeks apart, kicked open her front door and tore through their home searching for drug suspects. She’d never heard of the people they were hunting. Her oldest child, Savannah was 14 at the time; her youngest, Jhaimarion, was seven. They were ordered to get down on the floor.
Jhaimarion, 10, reacts as he listens to his mother, Krystal Archie talking with an Associated Press reporter in Chicago on Sept. 23, 2021. Archie’s three children were present when police, on two occasions, just 11 weeks apart, kicked open her front door and tore through their home searching for drug suspects. She’d never heard of the people they were hunting. Her oldest child, Savannah was 14 at the time; her youngest, Jhaimarion, was seven. They were ordered to get down on the floor.
Nam Y. Huh/AP
Education Gunman in 2018 Parkland School Massacre Pleads Guilty
A jury will decide whether Nikolas Cruz will be executed for one of the nation’s deadliest school shootings.
3 min read
Annika Dworet and her husband, Mitch Dworet, wipe away tears as their son's name is read aloud during Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz's guilty plea on all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. The Dworet's son, Nicholas Dworet, 17, was killed in the massacre.
Annika Dworet and her husband, Mitch Dworet, wipe away tears as their son's name is read aloud during Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz's guilty plea on all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. The Dworet's son, Nicholas Dworet, 17, was killed in the massacre.
Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP
Education Briefly Stated: October 20, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Gunman in Parkland School Massacre to Plead Guilty
The gunman who killed 14 students and three staff members at a Florida high school will plead guilty to their murders, his attorneys said.
4 min read
Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz is sworn in before pleading guilty, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on all four criminal counts stemming from his attack on a Broward County jail guard in November 2018, Cruz's lawyers said Friday that he plans to plead guilty to the 2018 massacre at a Parkland high school.
Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz is sworn in before pleading guilty, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on all four criminal counts stemming from his attack on a Broward County jail guard in November 2018, Cruz's lawyers said Friday that he plans to plead guilty to the 2018 massacre at a Parkland high school.
Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP