#566 – Dick Bernard: National Teacher Appreciation Day 2012

Today is National Teacher Day, a day with a long tradition. Since 1985 the first Tuesday in May has been the specific day, but the tradition goes back to an idea of a teacher in the 1940s.
More so than in any recent years, Teacher Appreciation Day is an essential one this year.
Especially since January 2011 there has been an organized assault on teachers and their organizations that I’d consider unprecedented. I knew it had been unremitting in the last year, but the extent was revealed by one of Governor Dayton’s veto messages here. (See CH 274 HF 1870 Veto Message). And this was just Minnesota.
Thankfully Governor Dayton, from a very well known Minnesota family, knows of what he speaks. Early in his adult life he spent two years teaching in poverty ridden public schools in New York City. A month or so ago I heard him speak about that experience at the Education Summit of Parents United, an independent non-partisan public education advocacy group.
The Governor related, among other things, his businessman Dad’s admonition that you must “inspect before you can expect”. For Mr. Dayton, this involved visiting the homes of his students.

Gov Mark Dayton at Parents United for Public Schools April, 2012

I come from a lifetime in teaching: my parents were career public school teachers. For nine years I was a teacher, then for 27 years I represented public school teachers in teacher union work. Even in the dozen years subsequent to retirement I’ve had close and continuing contacts with public education and educators. Today, May 8, 2012, one daughter will go to her job as Principal of a large Middle School; and seven grandchildren will be off to their Minnesota public schools with hundreds of thousands of their peers.
I’ve written about some of them recently: here and here.
But the assault on public ed is real, and at least here in Minnesota the battering rams apparently didn’t quite work.
Perhaps stability will begin to return.
I wasn’t a perfect teacher, nor a perfect union representative, nor are my union or its members perfect, but without equivocation the attack on Minnesota’s public workers has been unwarranted and unnecessary. Of course, the attack is all under the guise of “reform” or other high-sounding labels. But the intent was destruction and not reform, and you can see it in the morale of public employees under siege.
But even in the blitzkrieg of attempted destruction, there are good examples, not difficult to find. They are in those school programs that I wrote about a few days ago (see above), and in other sometimes unusual circumstances.
Some weeks ago I was driver for a 91-year old friend who wanted to attend his club meeting. He has for many years been a member of a well known men’s club, whose members are all prominent in their particular fields of endeavor. It is a by-invitation only group, and you can attend only as a member or a guest of a member. He’d long ago ‘paid his dues’ – both he and his Dad before him had been President of this Club.
Each month a featured part of the meeting is a talk by someone with particular expertise.
At this particular meeting, the speaker was a man whose first name is Erik and who is more and more well known among a certain twin cities and regional affinity group: his business is “Erik’s Bikes and Boards“. His website is here.
He gave his personal history – how it was he became successful – and among others he gave very specific credit to one unnamed public school teacher in one of the public schools he had attended as a young person.
I don’t know the teachers name, and it is unnecessary to find out who he or she was at this point. I know the school district, and it has always had a very strong teachers union, and most likely the teacher was part of that union. And more than just the teacher, the administration and the school district itself allowed the flexibility that helped launch Erik into his career.
Whatever the specifics, somewhere in the background of almost all of us is someone we remember as “teacher”. It only takes one, and all of we teachers know that. Someone, some time, we touched, even if we may never hear it directly.
Thank you all. And take a moment today to thank some teacher that you know who made a difference in your life.

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