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Virginia Journal of Education


On Point

Celebrate educators!


by Stephen Marion
I am a special education teacher. I am highly trained in what I do, and I have worked hard to get the credentials that certify my academic acumen. I have also spent lots of money on classes and put in lots of hours in pursuit of my own education. I have met the stringent requirements that come from the Department of Education that certify that I am a qualified educator.

I love children. I’m fascinated with life and I consider myself an artist. My canvas is the lives of children. The things that I teach will make an indelible mark upon their life. I will help shape them and guide them as they grow to take more and more responsibility for their own lives and, finally, as they reach a level of success and become productive members of society. Perhaps more than any other profession in our society, teachers shape the future. That is an awesome responsibility.

What organization has more impact upon the development of our communities and our whole nation than the public school? School is a thread that runs through the fabric of our society and weaves it all together. Perhaps it’s the strength of this thread that keeps our society from falling apart. In these days of economic distress we need to think about how we do things, how we are going to shape the future. Where we place our priorities is very important in times such as these. How we deal with the classroom and the professionals who lead those classrooms is of utmost significance. Here is where our children learn the foundation blocks of their future as well as the future of our society. Make no mistake about it: We teach math, language arts, history, science, art, music and physical education, but we also teach honesty, integrity, social skills, the joy and happiness that comes from the fruit of one’s own labor, morality and a whole lot of things that result from our own experiences as we live our lives in front of these students. Learning is not a switch we turn on in the morning and turn off at the end of the day.

I don’t understand why it is, but there seems to be a lot of people who want to bash teachers these days, to blame teachers for the “shortcomings” of schools. But educators are working harder and sharper than ever to do their work in the classroom. They are finding success and children are being taught. We here in Virginia should be proud of our public education system. Does that mean that every student in the system can read or do math on grade level? No, but that no does not translate into failure. Several years ago the federal government came up with a program called “No Child Left Behind.”  It has a really great ring to it. But I have not, in all of my years as a professional educator, found one teacher who would want to leave a child behind academically. Clichés like NCLB sound great, and they can certainly be rallying calls. But they very often do not define the real need.
 
As a special education teacher I have learned what it means when we say every child, every student is unique. There are circumstances and needs unique to that child. In a classroom of 25 students the teacher presents a lesson, but each student interprets that lesson in his or her unique way. For some the lesson connects and for some it doesn’t. As a teacher I have been trained to examine how that student receives what I am teaching—or how they don’t receive it. Then I can begin to look for a way to present the material so that the student who is having a problem can come to understand and apply the information and strategies I am teaching. This can become quite a complicated process, but it is a very necessary process. Because they’re unique, some children learn faster than others, some learn more deeply than others.
 
I have been in Smyth County for three years now, but I am a professional educator with quite a number of years of experience in the classroom.  I have worked with numerous educators here and I can assure you that we have quality educators in our classrooms. We need to be proud of those educators.  We do not need to beat them up or beat them down. Instead, we need to encourage them and express our sincere appreciation for all that they do for children. We are being asked to do more with much less than what is needed.  The morale of our educators is very low right now, and we need to lift them up.
                             
Marion, president of the Smyth County Education Association, is a special education teacher at Marion Middle School.

 


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