Toby Keith sings these words, and they couldn't be more pertinent to the education field than right now. So many people are writing blogs and talking about the pandemic of teacher resignations that many say are due, in part, to the COVID pandemic. If the goal of 2021 was to get students back to face-to-face classrooms, the goal of 2022 seems to be to get teachers to stay in the profession. A teacher friend of mine just told me that, as much as she loves her special education students, if one of her own children wanted to go into the field of education, she would do everything to talk them out of it.
So, I'm not here to write a blog about the problem. I'm here to ask teachers to tell us exactly what they need. While handing out hot beverages seemed to work for Sheldon on "Big Bang Theory" (it was the only thing he knew to do when someone was ailing), I don't think a gift card for a Caramel Whipped Coffee (I know; I'm not a coffee drinker, so I'm showing my ignorance about names of fancy hot beverages) is going to solve this predicament. I have the pleasure and honor of working with public and private schools and districts all over the world, and while I hear gratitude for the strategies we work on to make teaching and learning more effective ("this is the only workshop that has ever given me strategies I can take into the classroom tomorrow" one teacher in Nebraska told me a few weeks ago), I still feel as though what I'm offering is falling short.
I was listening to the song "Hammer and a Nail" by the Indigo Girls, and the lyrics say:
"I gotta get out of bed and get a hammer and a nail
Learn how to use my hands, not just my head
I think myself into jail
Now I know a refuge never grows
From a chin in a hand in a thoughtful pose
Gotta tend the earth if you want a rose
Had a lot of good intentions
Sit around for fifty years and then collect a pension
Started seeing the road to hell and just where it starts
But my life is more than a vision
The sweetest part is acting after making a decision
I started seeing the whole as a sum of its parts"
To get the full extent of their message, listen for yourself by clicking the song title above. I do believe sometimes we think ourselves in a jail, meaning (to me, anyway) we dither around about a topic instead of truly doing something. A chin in my hand engaged in a thoughtful pose (I love that line) takes up brain space but it doesn't really DO anything. Think tanks typically don't solve problems; they talk about problems. Let's do something to solve this mammoth-sized issue.
More of the lyrics say:
My life is part of the global life
I'd found myself becoming more immobile
When I'd think a little girl in the world can't do anything
A distant nation my community
A street person my responsibility
If I have a care in the world I have a gift to bring
We all can do something or we can do nothing. I truly want to do something, so I'm asking educators to tell me (and my readers) what will help them. When we think one person can't do something, we stay immobile. My hunch is that teachers really need:
*support from their school leaders and the community at large
*taking non-emergency paperwork off their hands until we get out of this mess
*engage them in professional learning that they can truly use, not some new "program" or "curriculum"
*respect the tremendous efforts they are putting forth
Now, what specifically does this look like and what else should be on this list? Tell me, and I will share it on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I want to help. As the Indigo Girls say, "If I have a care in the world, I have a gift to bring". So many things, for my dear friend and former administrative assistant (when I was a principal), Cindy Dooley, and me make sense in song lyrics. When we worked together, one of us would say something, and the other would turn it into a song lyric. Oh, what fun we had, doing the hard work that needed to be done.
I'd love to hear what you believe is needed to help teachers want to stay in this amazingly complex but incredibly gratifying field, whether it is through a song lyric or simply words explaining your idea for a possible solution. It doesn't have to solve everything; it may just be a small part, but even small parts put together create a "whole".
Please hear my sincerity in asking for your ideas.