Put Teachers First

July 3, 1989 was my first day teaching high school music.  When you multiply 180 times 30, I have taught at least 5,400 days.  In addition to the 5,400 days, all the competitions / Saturday rehearsals / performances / festivals.  I would say it would be close to 6,000 days being a teacher for children / students / young adults.  Therefore, I have wisdom. 

Think about all the historical things that have happened since July 3, 1989 – January 12, 2020 (day this was written)!  I will let you do that part of the work in researching all that has happened.  One thing for sure … no cell phone on July 3, 1989. 

I want to share my concern about the treatment of teachers. 

When I started in 1989, many of the older teachers, would say to me, “I don’t think I could be a teacher today.”  I giggle.  I say the same thing to the younger teachers today.

A big difference in 1989 and 2020 is, the invention of the cell phone.  The cell phone has done (still doing) serious damage to our nation.  I know you will argue all the good the cell phone has done.  But, when leaders in Silicon Valley are limiting “screen-use” for their children, those leaders even recognize there is damage being done. 

I like to compare the invention of the cell phone to the invention of the car.  When the car was invented, there was no brake on the care.  They would coast to a stop.  Then, they put a hand brake on the car.  That limited speed.  Can ya imagine using a hand brake to stop a car?  And then, of course, they figured out how to get a car to safely stop.

Well, what are the “brakes” on a cell phone?  Us.  People are the brakes.  THAT IS HORRIBLE!  Do you really believe the average person, let alone the below-the-average person, can control the use of the cell phone?  We barely have enough discipline to eat the right food / keep promises. 

Schools should be teaching children how to use a cell phone.  Well, we have put kids first. And in doing so, we are abdicating our role as the “brakes” in our children / students lives.  Many adults don’t want to bother to fight the students. 

Last week I wrote an “article” about discipline and love are complementary… Discipline and love are complementary, not antithetical. Our unwillingness to help students by confronting and disciplining them reveals our lack of love for them. We don’t coddle because we care about students. We coddle because we don’t care enough to bother. We care more about our own feelings of comfort or desire to be popular than their growth and readiness for the challenges of real life. Confrontation is not synonymous with hate. Any decent parents (my addition “teachers”) know if we love our kids, we’ll confront them. Failing to confront will result in them compromising body, mind, and soul.”

Page 180.  NOT A DAY CARE.

When we choose to put kids first, that means something, or someone is second.  So, I am going to take this (put kids first) literally and that means teachers are second.  I respectfully disagree with placing kids first / teachers second.  My disagreement doesn’t mean I am wrong and you are right, or vise versa.  So, before you pull out your guillotine, understand that I understand your passion for putting kids first / teachers second.   

GOOGLE “put kids first” and there are a lot of proponents of this philosophy.  As a parent / grandfather, I can understand how putting kids first is important.  When the kids are needing diapers changed / food / baths / etc., I truly understand the philosophy, “put kids first.”  I did that many times.  I chose to give-up getting a masters degree / a doctorate because I put my kids first.  I saw many men (in my case) losing marriages / distant from their children due to getting / earning their graduate degrees.  Not having a father, I did not want our son and daughter to have a similar experience.

There is a difference:  my students are not my kids! They aren’t.  I will take care of them the way I would like my son and daughter’s teacher to take care of kid:  student first – not their child!  I will do all I can to love them. 

In fact, a superintendent’s criticism of me – this may shock you – “The problem with Paul is, he care’s too much about the students.”  Yes.  That was the criticism.  Please.  Write that on my tombstone.  I embrace that criticism.

Yet, what he meant is, “Paul cares about the students not the way we (who know better / the “agenda”) want him to care about the students.” 

I think there is a difference in the way I care about my students versus many other educators.  A person said, “Paul is a net… not a hammock.”  LOVE IT.

I will be there to pick you (my student) up.  Not carry you. 

You need to have reeds for your instrument.  Not my job to go buy you reeds. 

I will tell you to not touch the stove and tell you why.  When you (my student) touch the stove, I will help you get through the pain.  Pain is part of the deal of life.

Put teachers first.  The students need to know the teacher is in charge.  You “mess” with the teacher, you will be suspended.  Well, in California / Florida and too many other states, that is not the case.  The students know they can willfully be defiant towards teachers and not be suspended.  You don’t think that weighs on a teacher?  The teacher knows he / she is helpless (as far no suspending students) in the case of a student being defiant.  So, yep … this is what happens when we “put students first.” 

Teachers – YOU NEED TO BE FIRST!  You need to take care of yourselves… Read good books.  Listen to good music.  Get sleep.  Eat good food.  Be around people who love you!  TAKE CARE OF YOURSELVES and you have a better chance to take care of your students.   

Teachers – YOU NEED TO BE FIRST!  Document students’ behavior.  Don’t let them do things that will cause you to dislike them (paraphrase Jordan B. Peterson) Be firm. 

Teachers – YOU NEED TO BE FIRST!  Know your material.  Hold the students accountable for the material.  Everything you ask from them, you must follow.  No cell phone … means you (the teacher) cannot use your cell phone during class.  You want them to have their instrument  … you better have your instrument.  EVERYTHING YOU ASK THEM … YOU MUST DO FIRST! Don’t make rules you are not going to follow! 

Teachers – YOU NEED TO BE FIRST.  Administrators at the sites and district, GIVE THE TEACHERS THE MATERIAL / EQUIPMENT they need to teach.  When a CHILD complains, give the teachers the benefit of the doubt.  Ask the CHILD and/or their parent, “Did you talk to the teacher?”  If the answer is “no,” from the CHILD or parent, then the conversation ends right there and then.  “Well, until you talk to the teacher, we cannot meet.  You (CHILD / parent) need to meet with the teacher and begin to work on an outcome that benefits the student and the teacher.” 

Teachers need “due process.”  (doesn’t happen)  Anonymity needs to stop.  Seriously.  Teachers should be able to talk to the accuser.  (This is a pipe dream, but on the other hand … miracles can happen.)

Bottom line… put teachers first and the students will reap the benefit of treating the teachers with THE RESPECT THEY HAVE EARNED!  Every damn profession has had a teacher teach them. There are too many damaged teachers and the damage is being created with a lack of empathy and support – support is more than words.  What a difference when students / their parents / administrators LOVE their teachers.  Love is a “verb.”  How do you show love for your teachers?  What do you do to LOVE your teachers?  Putting teachers first may be one way to show your teachers you love them.