Randy Forbes: Teachers always still going

randy forbesThe school buses pull away, the squeaking sound of rubber soles on hallway tile fades to quiet, the fluorescent lights flicker off, and the parking lot empties. But their work doesn’t stop.

It keeps going.

It keeps going into the afternoon when they stop by the supply store to pick up die-cuts for the new science unit on insects. It keeps going when they attend a faculty and staff meeting on the protocol for emergency evacuation procedures. It keeps going when, after eating dinner and putting their own children to bed, they pick up the phone or laptop to contact parents to discuss anything from student behavior issues to learning milestones. It keeps going when they log required hours for professional development. It keeps going when they collaborate with fellow educators. It keeps going when they write recommendation letters for students’ college applications.

At 3:30 p.m. when the dismissal bell rings, America’s teachers are still going.  Their work doesn’t stop at the classroom door. In fact, it doesn’t even stop at the school building doors. According to a 2012 report from Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, America’s teachers work on average a 53-hour work week. All across the country, teachers spend over 10 hours a day focused on our children. They make incredible commitments and sacrifices to our students, to their profession, and to our nation’s education system. Many of those hours go unnoticed.

But their commitment is about more than just hours in a day. It’s about the difference that they make in our world.  I’m fortunate to have spent time with many teachers: through my own children’s time in public school, with members of my staff who taught, and from visits with teachers around the fourth district. Overwhelmingly, those teachers tell me that the extra commitment they put into their jobs is simply second nature to them.  They do it because they care about the children they instruct, and they want to make a difference in their lives.

Our teachers are fighting for our children. They need parents and local, state, and federal leaders in their corner fighting for them. They need access to high quality resources. They need to be encouraged to reach personal and professional goals that give them the motivation to continue to excel. While salaries and benefits are not determined at a federal level, they do need practical things from the federal government like tax deductions for the personal money they spend for their classrooms and access to grants for innovative teaching. And, often, what they need most from the federal government is the autonomy to decide what strategies work best and what lessons meet the unique needs of their students, rather than one-size-fits-all standards. That’s why I’m supporting a bill, H.Res.476, which denounces the federal government coercion of states into adopting the Common Core standards, and restores and protects state authority and flexibility in establishing and defining student academic standards and assessments.  While there is much our government needs to do to fight for teachers, let’s not forget that often, our teachers just need an email simply saying “thank you.” Many educators have told me of the strength and encouragement they find from that one late-night email from a parent expressing gratitude for what they had done for a child.

As we embark on another school year, let us keep in mind the many hats our nation’s educators wear. They are teachers, yes. But they are also visionaries. They are encouragers. They are enforcers. They are coaches. They are counselors. They are the heroes in the lives of our children. Their diligence contributes to our children’s successes, and they deserve our support and appreciation.

They may never brush shoulders with world leaders or appear on national television, but America’s teachers are the ones who are changing the world – one child at a time.

Randy Forbes represents the Fourth District in Congress.

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