14

Thanks, but No Thanks

Richmond Family Magazine is a free, local publication that’s been in existence since 2009. I browsed the magazine a few times, but I am not a devoted reader because of it’s lack of substance. It’s chock full of more advertisements than articles. The managing editor of RFM is Karen Schwartzkopf, and this week she put Virginia teachers in her crosshairs.

Beginning Friday, it started snowing in Central Virginia. By 10:00 p.m. on Saturday night, we had 12-15 inches in Richmond and the surrounding counties. School was cancelled Friday, Monday, and Tuesday…so far. Like my students, I get giddy over snow days. Mrs. Schwartzkopf, however, does not approve of that sentiment and let Twitter know about it.

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“Thanks, but no thanks,” is the only acceptable and family-friendly response I can think of for her #sorrynotsorry lameness.

Mrs. Schwartzkopf, I am not rooting to avoid my students. Snow days create more work for teachers when we have to revise our lesson plans and, undoubtedly, cut certain activities because we are expected to adhere to guidelines for pacing and testing. There will be field trips, conferences, and meetings to reschedule, as well as children to refocus. I find your attitude faulting teachers for the weather misplaced and immature. I root for snow days because I can be productive (I emailed parents, responded to students’ questions via Edmodo, and graded work today) while spending extra time with my own children. Slowing down our morning hustle and bustle on occasion is a nice and welcome change.

Here is what I really do not understand…

Why is it acceptable to openly disrespect and mock teachers in 2016? Over a snow day. When did the profession become worthy of such snark and silliness? Why are public servants, including police officers and teachers, the villains these days? I have taught middle school since 2007, and every year there are those few little darlings that make me question my chosen profession. But I realize that a child’s poor attitude and behavior towards teachers and classmates are likely learned from the adults in his or her life. Children need a model for respectful behavior, and some parents fail to meet this bill. On the other hand, middle-schoolers are impulsive, emotional animals. You deal with it and move on. As teachers, we strive every day to foster positive relationships with students and parents, hold our students accountable, give children a sounding board, make the classroom fun, encourage analytical thinking, and spend our own money on classroom supplies to that effect–all while collecting endless amounts of data, completing forms, checking off boxes, and spending hours upon hours in professional development, parent conferences, and meetings. Our good intentions and best practices never seem to be enough, and we are under constant scrutiny. Gregory Michie wrote in The Washington Post, “We’ve created a climate where good, hard-working educators feel justifiably discouraged and unjustly maligned.” That’s a big reason why morale is low among teachers across this country. The concepts of teachers becoming targets and our country’s CULTURE of disrespect is further opined by The Chicago Tribune, NoBullying.com, and The Wall Street Journal.

The fact that Mrs. Schwartzkopf, a work-from-home mother, saw her teacher friends celebrating a snow day apparently sent her over the edge. Perhaps she’s waging the psychological mommy wars, one of those parents who project her own sanctimony and/or shortcomings on other parents. Maybe she views school as daycare and teachers as babysitters. Whatever her motive, I’ll say it again: Our good intentions and best practices are never enough.

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 10.11.15 PM(Image source: Mouthy Mother)

I found Mrs. Schwartzkopf’s apologies insincere. Since those apologies, she deleted her Twitter account. It’s unfortunate she felt the need to hide. Mrs. Schwartzkopf, as a teacher, please allow me to share why I welcome a couple days “off” and the goals I’m working on this week. Consider it a “teachable moment.”

  • Work on my NBC entry: This 12-page narrative to accompany my submission for National Board Certification is kicking my butt. I haven’t written a paper like this since college, but it’s nothing like college writing. By the time I achieve certification, I will spend $1,025 of my own money and give up several Saturdays attending workshops and coaching sessions. I don’t want to sound like a martyr because I realized the work, time, and money commitments when I signed up; but I do want to point out how ridiculous you, Mrs. Schwartzkopf, sound when you mock people who also work from home in the evenings, weekends, summer, and blizzards.
  • Paperwork: I am up for recertification and my triennial summative review this year. I brought home my binder to organize the forms, certificates, emails, and lesson plans I collect to demonstrate I can do my job.
  • Get at least four Weight Watchers FitPoints every day: I’ve done this by walking the dog with my oldest son, and sledding and playing outside with my younger two.
  • Meal plan and prep: I usually do this every other weekend, but this Saturday I’ll be attending one of those NBC coaching sessions referenced above.
  • Clean bathrooms: I live with three little boys and a husband…enough said. This is low on the totem pole and the reason we buy Clorox wipes in bulk.

Today, my three boys and I piled onto the couch after breakfast and watched The Lorax. Things 1 and 2 took turns reciting all the lines. Thing 3 was just happy to be invited to the couch party. It was a wonderful moment, and one I will not apologize for wanting more of. I’ve never met Mrs. Schwartzkopf, and I certainly do not want to judge a person based on one poor comment. People have bad days, but when you use your status to promote poorly-placed snark and disrespect among your readers and followers, you lack integrity and common sense. Perhaps you should spend a week as a substitute teacher and see what it’s like in the trenches. How quickly will you be hoping for a snow day? I’ll offer the same advice I offer my 7th graders…Slow down, check your work, and think before you speak.

To read more about this debate and another perspective, check out Mouthy Mother’s blog post here.

And no matter what Mrs. Schwartzkopf says, my boys are loving our snow days. They also love their teachers, who I hope are enjoying some well-deserved time to explore the world outside the classroom.

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