Stop Calling them “Teachers”

For many reasons, the word “teacher” is no longer adequate compared to the tasks these professionals undertake. It is time to honor them for who truly are and what they really do.

The hot-button issue across the state of South Carolina right now is the re-opening of public schools. I do not envy anyone at any level–from superintendents to bus drivers–who is involved in this situation.

Some states are working closely with their education professionals and health experts on how to do this. Such is not the case in South Carolina, where politicians are making declarative judgments and expecting the experts to just go along.

And these judgments are revealing the true colors of our political “leadership.”

SC governor Henry McMaster is holding true to one of his convictions by not issuing an executive order on going back to school (not yet at least). But he did hold a press conference to line up a hardcore argument for why South Carolina schools should open for full service, five days a week.

Noticeably absent from this event was Secretary of Education Molly Spearman. This article might explain why.

The Governor and his crack team of lawyers and professional politicians (not educators or health experts) had quite a bit to say about teachers, as well as local administration and school boards. They implied that they are responsible for the failures of online schooling and the difficulties in connecting to students through the pandemic.

The entourage then lined up to imply that teachers are shirking responsibility if they do not go back to school five days a week. As one legislator stated, “They signed up for this.”

Apparently, you do not just “sign up” to teach in South Carolina. You sign up to be the salvation of the entirety of civilization for our fair state.

It is not an exaggeration that this group at the press conference held up teachers as accountable and responsible for taking care of all the malnourished and abused children in the public school system. They are accountable and responsible for their physical, mental, and emotional health.

They are accountable and responsible to account for the presence and participation of every child in the state. They are accountable and responsible for ending cycles of abuse of children and families.

It’s funny how none of these points make it to the press conferences for the Governor and his cronies when schools need more funding, more equipment, more resources, or fair enough pay to hire necessary teachers (much less support staff).

People are more than happy to jump on this political bandwagon of dismissing public education. Until now, of course, when we suddenly and desperately “need it” so much.

In spite of this blatant and obvious disrespect, I actually (everyone clutch your pearls or grab onto something) agree with Henry McMaster and his crew.

Public schools are vitally important for the total welfare of all humanity. But I would add in one critical part that these people carefully left out.

It’s time to start acting like public education matters—ALL the time, even after it stops being politically convenient.

Let us start by no longer calling them “teachers.” That should be a term of respect, but too many people have allowed it to be dragged through the mud for no good reason.

Let us start calling them what they are: Educators. Better yet, they are Professional Educators.

If we want them to risk their health and their lives and the well-being of their families to solve all the problems of society that McMaster and some legislators continue to ignore, then we can at least acknowledge them with full respect.

(A raise and more funding would be preferable, but maybe we can work our way up?)

For decades, South Carolina has neglected the needs of underserved people and communities. They have ignored racial injustice, affordable housing, generational poverty, food security, the onslaught of child/domestic abuse, and the difficulty in paying educators competitive wages.

The state has dumped millions into online education programs over the last 10 years. McMaster inadvertently admitted at his press conference that this had nothing to do with fair and equitable education. If we knew that poor, underserved, rural communities did not benefit from this because they do not have broadband internet access, then why did we invest those millions? Perhaps to benefit those vocal enough to insist on the privilege?

Now, the Governor is all but demanding that professional educators continue cleaning up the messes he and others have ignored. This is not new. Educators have done this for years. As usual, most of these educators will do exactly that—because they know what it means to care more about the children than their own self-interest. Or their political future.

How is McMaster responding to the long-term fallout of wasted dollars, lack of funding, and total absence of respect for the vitality of public education? He is attempting to shuffle $32 million to private schools (67% of CARES Act funds), while dismissing anyone who disagrees with his approach.

The least we can do is be clear about who these true leaders are. Professional educators do not merely teach curriculum from a textbook. They educate the rest of us about the issues of society because they are always the first to step up in an effort to address them.

Without educators, not only will our children suffer, but we will also have a profound lack of awareness. Goodness knows that is the last thing we need.

A simple name change is certainly not sufficient. Professional Educators are much more valuable than simply a more appropriate title. But perhaps this small step of respect will make us more aware of how critical public education is, and how much we truly need it.

The next step is to VOTE. That includes voting out those who only care about Professional Educators when it suits their purpose. And voting in those who want to make a full investment in our children, their schools, and those who educate them (and us).

The state of the State depends on it.

One thought on “Stop Calling them “Teachers”

  1. I have said ever since McMaster made his announcement about going back 5 days a week that every single one of the people (mostly legislators) at that press conference is fully responsible for not funding schools, internet services, social services, etc. They have NOT been doing THEIR JOBS for which they were elected to do and are now trying to blame professional educators for their failures.

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