Public School Teachers - The Rock Stars of Our Economy
by Doyle Ranstrom on Aug 23, 2022
My 5th grade teacher retired after having me in her a class. My mom said it was my fault. She said after a year of having me, my teacher decided that early retirement looked really good. The word on the street is though the chances of another me coming thru the system was very remote, my teacher decided no point in taking any chances.
5th grade was my first in a new school system. It was also my mom's first year as a teacher. She had been hired as 3rd grade teacher in a small town in west-central Minnesota. Back at that time, the early 1960s, there was a teacher shortage, and some school systems, especially in small towns, would hire applicants with three years of college, with the understanding they would continue to take night and summer school classes to complete their degrees. In addition to teaching a class, doing prep for the next day, often until midnight, my mom and a couple other teachers, would drive an hour or more two nights a week to take night school classes until they finished their degrees.
So my mom as a 40+ first year teacher with six kids, three in the school system, going to college, doing lesson plans, also had me down the hall, or more accurately, in the hall. My 5th grade teacher would often suggest I go stand in the hall. After awhile, she would just look at me and I would get up go out the door and stand in the hallway. More than once, my mom would hear from her students, "Mrs Ranstrom, why do we have to be good, your son is in the hallway again?" Those nights, dinner was very uncomfortable.
For the record, I have always felt my 5th grade teacher was partially at fault. She would ask me questions like, "how did you get to the back of the room?". I would say "I walked". A better and more thoughtful question on her part would have been, "why are you in the back of the room?" A much more challenging question for a 10-year old with lots of issues to address.
My mom was an exceptional teacher. I could cite many reasons, but the easiest at her funeral, she was 89 when she passed away, students from many of the classes showed up. A couple from her first year of teaching. They remember me also. Turns out I was somewhat of an inspiration. I was worse screw-up then they were.
My mom was exceptional as a teacher, but not the exception. Over the years, first as student, then as a parent, as a professional and as a friend, I have known lots of teachers. Almost all were dedicated professionals committed to their students and being educators to the best of their abilities. This was true when my mom was teaching and its still true today.
There were challenges back then. For example, my mom had to go in front of the school board and apply for head of household pay. Keep in mind, they all knew she was a widow with three kids in the school system. It meant $50 more a month in pay which was a lot back then. She had other challenges.
Today's teachers also have lots of challenges. School board's who too often try to impose personal religious beliefs and prejudices on teachers and ultimately the students they teach. Administrators who do not have their staff's back. Kids whose parents think they are perfect, when it is pretty obvious they are not. And parents who wish to impose their flawed and often uninformed views of history on teachers and their curriculums.
For the record, public school curriculums, from K-12, should be driven by a broad group of academics who have advanced degrees in their specific fields. School boards and parents should have no influence on curriculum. It makes no more sense for a school board or group of parents to influence a history curriculum or the teaching of it then it would be for those same groups to have influence on teaching chemistry of algebra.
Like every other profession, the teaching profession has problems and challenges. But we should appreciate the value public school teachers bring to our society and our country. Teachers who can teach the sciences, math, communication skills, introduction to the trades, history accurately, and perhaps most importantly, help students of different backgrounds and races learn and grow together for the US are the rock stars of our economy.
Our students today, will as adults, face numerous challenges including, to name a few, the increasing cost and consequences of natural disasters driven by climate change. Demographics which include an increasingly diverse population and an aging one. The effect innovation and technology led by AI/Automation will have on our economy and future job growth. How well today's students will address these and many other problems will be determined in part by the quality of education they receive in the public schools.
Today's public school teachers are our Nations bridge to a successful tomorrow and more rock stars for our country.