Want to Improve Education? Change the Way You Talk About Teachers

The number one thing you shouldn't say? "I could never be a teacher."

In our Transforming Schools Together series, teachers affiliated with the Center for Teaching Quality invite us to re-imagine the very concept of school, and suggest small actions we can take to improve existing schools.

How people (you included!) talk about a profession shapes how people think about it. And this, of course, influences who chooses the profession for a career, and how the profession's members are treated.

I've been a teacher in Boston Public Schools since 2003, and am constantly jarred by how those outside the teaching profession talk about and to those of us who have chosen teaching as a career. The implications of such speech are massive.

Want to help improve education? Start with something simple: shifting the way you talk to and about teachers.

1. Don't say: "I could never be a teacher."

Why not: Me, I love being a teacher. If you got solid preparation and taught in a school that was a good fit for you, you probably would love it, too. Honestly. Teachers are made, not born! But the more that people badmouth the profession or act as though teachers must have some special DNA, the fewer smart, innovative people will recognize teaching for the great career option it is. The fewer top-notch teachers we have, the harder it is to improve education.

2. Don’t say: "Teachers have it easy."

Why not: Teachers do a ton of work outside of school hours, and also grapple with emotional and intellectual challenges worthy of the world's top minds. We have some nice perks that other jobs lack, but we’re also the ones grading 140 essays, weekend after weekend. We love having a change of pace during the summer, but most of us spend July and August doing professional development and taking extra jobs to make ends meet. Very few careers are "easy," and teaching is certainly not one of them!

3. On the flip side, don't say: "Ahh, you teachers are such saints. You have an impossible job."

Why not: Saints are individuals who die because of great pain and hardship. Yipes! Few people WANT to go into a field described in this way. Further, in a well-run school, it is not necessary to sacrifice one’s health and sanity to be a teacher. I have a nice, vibrant life outside of school, not a pair of wings! Less clinging to the destructive teacher-as-martyr fallacy, please.

4. Don't say: "I don't have the patience to be a teacher."

Why not: This phrase perpetuates the idea of teachers as low-level babysitters in a career that no one wants. Patience implies drudgery, not brain power. The truth is that teaching is a highly intellectual, interesting, stimulating career that requires thinking, ingenuity, and pizazz.

So what SHOULD you say about the teaching profession?

DO say: "Oh, you're a teacher! Tell me more!"

Why: People assume they know what it's like to be a teacher, but in fact, "teacher" is radically different depending on the school, district, and person. Rather than making a declaration about the entire career, ask an open-ended question to learn more. Hopefully you will begin to see why so many of us love our teaching job!

We'll be interested to hear more about your career, too. By showing mutual respect and curiosity, we can find creative, fulfilling ways to combine our powers and improve our world’s education... together. And this starts in how we speak!

What would YOU add to or revise on this list?

Lillie Marshall has been a teacher in the Boston Public Schools since 2003, and runs Around the World “L” Global Education Siteand TeachingTraveling.comalong with the Education Bloggers Facebook Group. She is a member of the Center for Teaching Quality’s virtual community of teachers.

Photo (cc) via Flickr user US Department of Education

via The Howard Stern Show / YouTube

Former Secretary of State, first lady, and winner of the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, sat own for an epic, two-and-a--half hour interview with Howard Stern on his SiriusXM show Wednesday.

She was there to promote "The Book of Gutsy Women," a book about heroic women co-written with her daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

In the far-reaching conversation, Clinton and the self-proclaimed "King of All Media" and, without a doubt, the best interviewer in America discussed everything from Donald Trump's inauguration to her sexuality.

Keep Reading Show less

Offering parental leave for new fathers could help close the gender gap, removing the unfair "motherhood penalty" women receive for taking time off after giving birth. However, a new study finds that parental leave also has a pay gap. Men are less likely to take time off, however, when they do, they're more likely to get paid for it.

A survey of 2,966 men and women conducted by New America found that men are more likely to receive paid parental leave. Over half (52%) of fathers had fully paid parental leave, and 14% of fathers had partially paid parental leave. In comparison, 33% of mothers had fully paid parental leave and 19% had partially paid parental leave.

Keep Reading Show less

Bans on plastic bags and straws can only go so far. Using disposable products, like grabbing a plastic fork when you're on the go, can be incredibly convenient. But these items also contribute to our growing plastic problem.

Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by cutting down on disposable products. And even more fortunately, there are sustainable (and cute) replacements that won't damage the environment.

Coconut bowls


Who says sustainable can't also be stylish? These cute coconut bowls were handmade using reclaimed coconuts, making each piece one of a kind. Not only are they organic and biodegradable, but they're also durable, in case your dinner parties tend to get out of hand. The matching ebony wood spoons were polished with the same coconut oil as the bowls.

Cocostation Set of 2 Vietnamese Coconut Bowls and Spoons, $14.99; at Amazon

Solar powered phone charger


Why spend time looking around for an outlet when you can just harness the power of the sun? This solar powered phone charger will make sure your phone never dies as long as you can bask in the sun's rays. As an added bonus, this charger was made using eco-friendly silicone rubber. It's win-win all around.

Dizaul Solar Charger, 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, $19.95; at Amazon, $19.95; at Amazon

Herb garden kit

Planter Pro

Put some green in your life with this herb planter. The kit comes with everything you need to get a garden growing, including a moisture meter that helps you determine if your herbs are getting the right amount of food to flourish. All the seeds included are certified to be non-GMO and non-hybrids, meaning you can have fresh, organic herbs right at your fingertips.

Planter Pro's Herb Garden Cedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazonedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazon

Reusable Keurig cups

K & J

Keurig cups are convenient, but they also create a ton of plastic waste. These Keurig-compatible plastic cups are an easy way to cut down on the amount of trash you create without cutting down on your caffeine. Additionally, you won't have to keep on buying K Cups, which means you'll be saving money and the environment.

K&J Reusable Filter Cups, $8.95 for a set of 4,; at Amazon

Low-flow shower head


Low-flow water fixtures can cut down your water consumption, which saves you money while also saving one of the Earth's resources. This shower head was designed with a lighter flow in mind, which means you'll be able to cut down on water usage without feeling like you're cutting down on your shower.

Speakman Low Flow Shower Head, $14.58; at Amazon

Bamboo safety razor


Instead of throwing away a disposable razor every time you shave, invest in an eco-friendly, reusable one. This unisex shaver isn't just sustainable, it's also sharp-looking, which means it would make a great gift for the holidays.

Zomchi Safety Razor, $16.99; at Amazon

The Planet