The vast majority of people support their local schools and the essential work performed by educators to help students learn and grow, but you might not get that perception when you turn on cable news or browse social media.
With Teacher Appreciation Week next week, there’s no better time for everyday citizens to voice the support they might otherwise hold quietly in their hearts and show the gratitude they feel to our children’s educators – who urgently need to hear it at this moment.
According to Gallup’s annual survey of professional trust, educators consistently rank near the top of the most trusted professions. But in the media we all consume, we’re fed a steady diet of disinformation meant to divide communities and sow mistrust.
Political extremists relentlessly spread falsehoods and conspiracy theories designed to denigrate educators and undercut our local schools. By playing divide-and-conquer, they can achieve their political goals.
They have a willing partner in social media and cable news companies. After all, conflict gets eyeballs, clicks and comments; thus, more money for advertisers. Sharing positive stories about educators and parents working together to create a brighter future for our kids doesn’t sell as well – even though that’s exactly what’s happening daily in Michigan communities.
In such a landscape, extremist politicians who divide us for their political gain are allowed to win. The corporations making money hand-over-fist via the outrage industry are allowed to win.
But, by attacking educators and chasing talented people out of the profession, the over 90% of Michigan students who attend public schools lose.
There is good news: We are seeing more examples of parents, community members and educators banding together to demonstrate support for their local schools and the amazing work that goes on every day.
For example, in southwest Michigan’s Brandywine Community Schools, community members of all political stripes are becoming more vocal in their support for local educators, who find themselves under attack by an extremist majority recently elected to the school board. About 75 people, including parents, educators and students, attended a recent Brandywine school board meeting and urged the board to focus on the real issues facing their schools, including chronic absenteeism, a shortage of staff and transportation challenges.
You don’t have to attend and speak at a school board meeting — although that is impactful and appreciated — to express your support for your local educators. Even a simple “thank you,” “hang in there,” or even just a smile and nod can go a long way toward showing an educator that they are valued.
In addition, you can show your appreciation by urging lawmakers to do the same with their votes in Lansing.
Between state budget discussions and legislation to restore rights for school employees to have a full voice in their profession, Michigan’s Legislature is addressing critical issues that concretely show respect for the hard work of teachers and support staff.
Michigan’s preK-12 schools, community colleges and universities need budgets that rebuild funding levels needed for students to succeed. Beyond encouraging leaders to make those key investments, you can help by urging them to pass bills restoring the right for educators to negotiate about important professional matters, like how jobs are filled, evaluations are completed, and employees are treated when a contract expires.
Restoring that professional respect will go a long way in addressing our state’s crippling educator shortage.
Next week for Teacher Appreciation Week, take a little time to demonstrate your appreciation for an educator, in whatever manner is most comfortable to you. I guarantee you’ll make a difference for educators and students alike.
Paula Herbart is president of the Michigan Education Association.
Labor Voices columns are written on a rotating basis by United Auto Workers President Ray Curry, Michigan Education Association President Paula Herbart, Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights Executive Secretary-Treasurer Tom Lutz and selected Service Employees International Union members.
(Posted as submitted to Detroit News – https://www.detroitnews.com/story/opinion/2023/05/02/thank-your-michigan-teachers-for-teachers-appreciation-week/70170278007/)