Teachers are under fire from politicians and the media today, but most ordinary Americans are behind educators. A recent poll by Phi Delta Kappa and Gallup found that even though a solid majority (68 percent) of respondents said most of the news they hear about teachers is bad, an even higher percentage (71 percent) said they trust public-school teachers to do their jobs. And even more—73 percent—said teachers should be given greater flexibility and not have to follow a strict curriculum.
Most Americans don’t gain much attention when they speak up on behalf of educators, but this summer one supporter of teachers has drawn media coverage. Matt Damon, an American actor and screen writer – and the son of a teacher, spoke at this summer’s Save Our Schools March in Washington, D.C.
I said before that I had incredible teachers. And that’s true. But it’s more than that. My teachers were EMPOWERED to teach me. Their time wasn’t taken up with a bunch of test prep – this silly drill and kill nonsense that any serious person knows doesn’t promote real learning. No, my teachers were free to approach me and every other kid in that classroom like an individual puzzle. They took so much care in figuring out who we were and how to best make the lessons resonate with each of us. They were empowered to unlock our potential. They were allowed to be teachers.
Politicians who attack teachers and call for more and more standardized testing are out of sync with their constituents. More voters need to let their elected officials know that they feel like Matt does.
As of August 16, only 13 percent of Americans approved of how Congress is doing its job. Teachers are so much more popular than politicians; one would think more politicians would want to align themselves with educators rather than against them.
In his speech Matt reminded teachers of all the people who are behind them.
This has been a horrible decade for teachers. I can’t imagine how demoralized you must feel. But I came here today to deliver an important message to you: As I get older, I appreciate more and more the teachers that I had growing up. And I’m not alone. There are millions of people just like me.
So the next time you’re feeling down, or exhausted, or unappreciated, or at the end of your rope; the next time you turn on the TV and see yourself called “overpaid;” the next time you encounter some simple-minded, punitive policy that’s been driven into your life by some corporate reformer who has literally never taught anyone anything…. Please know that there are millions of us behind you. You have an army of regular people standing right behind you, and our appreciation for what you do is so deeply felt. We love you, we thank you and we will always have your back.
Ordinary Americans don’t have talk shows or podiums from which to demonstrate their appreciation for teachers, but you have their support. As you head back to school, remember everyone who is behind you and the important work that you do.
Watch Matt Damon’s full speech at the Save Our Schools March below.