Editor’s Note: More than simply a place to express ourselves, we hope that Schools as Ecosystems can become a forum for conversations between educators about how to build sustainable public schools. We are happy to welcome our first guest blogger, teacher Mike Schirtzer, to this conversation.
Speaking as a native New Yorker from Brooklyn who grew up in poverty, the only thing that saved me from myself was school. It was a place where I learned how to get ahead and develop friendships. I was lucky to have teachers who guided me towards the right path. The sense of security that the teachers were able to provide, along with the constant belief they had in me, challenged me to be a better person. They brought me the success I have today. I hope and pray each day that as a teacher, I too can instill the same drive and enthusiasm in my students.
I certainly did not become a teacher for the money or the benefits; I became a teacher to inspire children the way teachers inspired me when I was in school. We cannot hide behind the fact that there are some appalling teachers and ineffective principals, but how about for once, we highlight the thousands of great ones. These are the kinds of workers you find in my school. They are there early in the mornings, late into the night, weekends, summers, preparing the best lessons they possibly can, always having our students’ best interests at heart. The staff at my school goes out of its way to ensure that there are various extra-curricular activities available for the students, despite all the budget cuts. Now the question is, why do they put in all of this effort, long beyond their work hours?
The answer is a simple one: to ensure that our school is a safe and welcoming environment for students where they want to stay and learn, to develop strong relationships, and participate in activities even after the school day is over. This is important to me personally because some students have no other good place to go. They should not have to rush home and face the realities of poverty and broken families like I did when I was a child.
My colleagues deserve recognition for their dedication and hard work, even though few expect it and all would be embarrassed to receive any credit, because that is not why we show up every morning. I find it sad that a society that once held teachers in high esteem now maligns them on a regular basis. This is not a productive way to lure the best and brightest into our profession. I hope that one day, society as a whole will be able to see past the few that should not have chosen this profession and look at all the unsung heroes.
I love being a teacher, and work hard at being the best I can possibly be; my colleagues and friends feel the same way. There are many news outlets that belittle and demean us teachers on a daily basis and rarely bother to commend us for the work we do. This in itself is more detrimental to education than the damage that any one teacher can possibly make. We show up to work everyday, under increasing pressure to have students prepare for tests, tests, and more tests— yet despite all the pressure and criticism we endure, when we look into the sea of shining faces that sit in our classrooms, we don’t see test scores. We see the great leaders of tomorrow.
Michael G. Schirtzer
Leon M. Goldstein High School for the Sciences