About Randy Miller

Randy R. Miller is a social studies teacher at Charter High School located in Camden, NJ. Randy has 5 years collective experience in both K-12 and higher education as a fundraiser, program coordinator and student advisor. He is also Co-Founder and CEO of MORE, Inc., which empowers urban youth and young adults holistically through education and mentoring using practical strategies for real life application. Randy received both his bachelor of arts degree (2005) and master’s degree in public policy and administration (2008) from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.

Week 5/6 – 5/10

teacherappreciationI had no clue that this week was Teacher Appreciation Week. As a matter of fact, I thought Tuesday was the only day for teacher appreciation. My wife actually informed me that it was an entire week. I had no idea. Either way, I was glad to hear that there was actually a week to appreciate teachers; however I think that it is safe to say that few teachers were appreciated this week, and every day… I mean the good teachers.

A few thoughts on the appreciation of teachers. America is a society of factions; it always has been and always will be. We love calling ourselves a “melting pot,” but we’re more like a mixed bag. The reality is that we are recognizable by our categorizations. Working class folks are big on unions. Teachers are big on unions. Unions protect both the innocent and the guilty from injustices levied by the powers that be. Regardless of the recent extraordinary attacks on teachers by the public and politicians, there is some truth in their claims that teachers are failing students… some teachers. The fact of the matter is that there have been poor teachers and unions.  As well as tenure  sometime protects these piss poor teachers in addition to protecting the good ones. If we could rid the world of bad teachers, public education in America may be better. But my message to the public and politicians is that there are bad apples in all walks of life. There are bad politicians, but I certainly do not see them rushing to rid themselves of their colleagues or of the perks of being a politician. No one is calling for the heads of those on Wall Street who screwed many Americans out of millions – politicians would have you believe that teachers are stealing money from the people. Yet few of them take aim at the real crooks on Wall Street for stealing the money of the people. While many American are too narrow minded to use their own brains to reach their own conclusions and  instead they choose to believe what some politician or pundit says.

That was just a blanket statement. All politicians aren’t like that, but if we could start all over, I wouldn’t mind. Yet that is not using sound judgment; to get rid of all politicians would prevent the good politicians from working on behalf of their constituents. The same is true with teachers; to get rid of all of them would be reckless. So rather than focus on the piss poor teachers all of the time, celebrate the good teachers that you know. A colleague of mine tried to do that this week with an email. He embellished a little, but it was done in good faith; in an attempt to boost teacher morale. One of my teacher colleagues didn’t seem to think so.


Moment of the Week

I spoke with my colleague who is the Director of our Guidance office and he told me that he was going to send out a nice email and provide the teachers with bagels, coffee and donuts – mind you none of the principals did that in his building. In his email, he mentioned a number of teachers for their exceptional work and he left out others. One teacher that was not mentioned in my colleague’s email letter to the faculty took exception to the letter. It just so happens that the Director of Guidance cc’ed me on his response to that teacher, so I know what my teacher colleague said to the director and he said, “If you cannot mention all teachers, then you shouldn’t mention any.” Like I said, the Director of Guidance responded accordingly and my teacher colleague followed up in kind saying, “Not really worth arguing about. I just felt the letter was extremely self serving and in the end, ends up hurting more teachers then it helps. The feedback I’m getting from the teachers (in our building) is that the letter was not well received and many teachers felt it to be shameless. Sorry.”

Lesson of the Week

It has been a tough year for the teachers in our district. Our larger high school is the most problematic school and at the beginning of the year the school lost its principal – someone who I thought was not a good match for the school to begin with but I digress. The teachers in that school have received little to no support, all of the teachers in our district have received poor quality professional development, for half the year our district has been telling us to teach to the test and the administrators are either overworked, incapable of doing their jobs or they are reassigned if they do their jobs well. Our teachers have been through it. We’ve got a lot of young inexperienced teachers who are frustrated with teaching and also many grizzled veterans who just want to make it out alive each day. In the problematic high school in our district, the administrators did little to nothing to recognize teacher appreciation. The director of guidance was compelled to appreciate the teachers because he understood the tough year the teachers had and he also knew that it was messed up that no administrator stepped up to recognize them. Could he have not written a letter that recognized certain teachers and either said everyone or no one, of course he could have. Could my teacher colleague, and other teachers, not have taken it personal that their names weren’t mentioned in a district-wide email, most certainly.

There are a lot of ways in which teachers are disrespected in society – teachers are indeed under attack. But we cannot be so engaged in defending ourselves, that we cannot distinguish live bullets from blanks. Sometimes, it’s okay to give folks the benefit of the doubt; everything isn’t an attack and while people must be mindful of the ways messages can be perceived, we must also be careful to distinguish how messages sound and the intention behind the message.

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