May 2016
Volume XIII Issue V

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Elevating Educators


Bruce Oliver

Bruce Oliver, the author of Just for the ASKing!, lives in Burke, Virginia. He uses the knowledge, skills, and experience he acquired as a teacher, professional developer, mentor, and middle school principal as he works with school districts across the nation. He has written more than 150 issues of Just for the ASKing!  He is also a co-author of Creating a Culture for Learning published by Just ASK.

Truth be told, today’s educators deserve more respect, admiration, support, praise, and even adulation for the work that they do every day. Until one has spent some time working in a school, the average person has no idea how complex and challenging the job of a teacher can be. Angela Minnici, the director of the Education Policy Center at the American Institute for Research in Washington, D.C. writes, “Today the science of learning has told us what it takes to really help students learn and which attributes, skills, and knowledge teachers need to succeed with their students. And the hard truth is that few people possess the right disposition to work with children and adolescents, and most can’t master the knowledge and skills to do so.” She cites educational psychologist Lee Shulman who has described teaching as “perhaps the most complex, most challenging, and most demanding subtle nuanced, and frightening activity that our species has ever invented.” He adds, “The only time a physician could possibly encounter a situation of comparable complexity would be in the emergency room of a hospital after a natural disaster.” Dr. Shulman’s description truly sheds light on the intricacies of what is required of today’s educators. As Ms. Minnici has noted, “ ‘Anyone can teach’ just ain’t so.’ ”

During the first week in May, schools across the world acknowledge Teacher Appreciation Week. Hopefully, these indomitable, dedicated educators receive proper recognition and gratitude during all the other weeks of the year. The indebtedness we owe to our teachers should not be relegated to just one week.

Although some educators may feel that they are not valued, there are numerous individuals, both those in the field as well as those in other occupations, who speak highly of the profession. Their words represent how strongly they feel about education and the impact it has had on their lives and the lives of countless children.  To that end, this month’s newsletter is devoted to presenting some touching (and even emotional and comical) quotes that capture our profession and elevate educators to the levels to which they rightfully belong.


Unprecedented Successes
Rick DuFour in his book In Praise of American Educators And How They Can Become Even Better

“America’s teachers are being asked (in fact, directed) to do more than ever before and reach levels of student achievement that have no precedent in any country in the world while they confront increasingly complex and difficult circumstances. They continue to be besieged by hostile attacks while the unprecedented successes of our public schools are being largely ignored.  With a nod to Winston Churchill, it could be said that never have so many been asked to do so much with so little – and then appreciated by so few.”

Rewarding Teachers
– Alfie Kohn, author, speaker, and proponent of progressive education

“So how should we reward teachers? We shouldn’t. They’re not pets.  Rather, teachers should be paid well, freed from misguided mandates, treated with respect, provided the support they need to help their students become increasingly proficient and enthusiastic learners.”

Beyond Standards
-Jenni Miller, instructional technology resource teacher

“Today’s teachers find themselves not just teaching students the expected curriculum standards, but also teaching- to name just a few – behavior expectations, digital citizenship skills, character education, group collaboration skills – all while ensuring that all students have adequate nutrition so they can focus while in the classroom.”

Leftover Skittles
We Are Teachers, online resource for lesson plans, resources and grants

“Teaching: Some days you change the world. Other days, you end up hiding under your desk eating the leftover Skittles from a math lesson that was good on paper.”

Heartfelt Heroes
– Teresa Kwant, teacher and author

“Paraprofessional: The heartfelt hero. Using their talents to help students discover their own. Dedicating their time and energy each day to the students in their care and doing it all while meeting the needs of many. #school heroes.

Inmeasurable Talents
– Heather Clayton, New York State elementary school principal and author of Just ASK’s Making the Common Core Come Alive!

“I am so grateful to lead a school with gifted educators who teach children to care about their world, to value literacy, to find their ‘voices’ through the arts, to nurture their minds and bodies, to take risks, to persevere, problem solve and above all care for one another. You just CAN’T measure that with a number.  If only our governor could visit for a day…. he’d be forever changed.”

Losing Sleep
-Nicholas Ferroni, author, historian, and education reformer

“Educators are the only people who lose sleep over other people’s children.”

Favorite Teacher
– Milton Chen, Senior Fellow, Edutopia

“Everyone has a story about that one favorite teacher who took an interest in them, told them they were smart, or encouraged them to pursue a subject or a sport. I’ve always been impressed by, how a single remark from one teacher can influence a student’s path. Delaine Eastin, one of the most distinguished former California state superintendents, used to tell the story of being a shy girl until a drama teacher told her she ought to try out for a play. Eastin learned that she loved performing onstage. She became a riveting speaker, a popular state legislator, and the highest elected education official in the nation – all sparked by one comment from a compassionate teacher.”

Inspirational Words
Maya Angelou, author, poet and civil rights activist

“This is the value of the teacher, who looks at a face and says there’s something behind that and I want to reach that person, I want to influence that person, I want to encourage that person, I want to enrich, I want to call out that person who is behind that face, behind that color, behind that language, behind that tradition, behind that culture. I believe you can do it. I know if was done for me.”

Misguided Direction
– Eschaton blog, “Where Did All the Teachers Go?

“Apparently there’s a (teacher) shortage.  Who could have predicted that demonizing them, cutting salaries and benefits, and reducing job security might make it slightly less attractive for people.”

Undying Dedication
-Deborah Stipek, reporter, San Francisco Chronicle

“Teachers buy materials with money from their own pockets and volunteer their Saturdays and vacations to attend workshops to develop their own skills. They don’t do this for the money, I assure you. They do it because they care about the education of our children. As another school year comes to a close, it is an appropriate time to thank the effective and dedicated teachers in our schools.”


Poetic License
— Julius Babarinsa

From the Kindergarten to the University
Teachers taught us how to read and write
They explained how to search for the logic
behind every statement and argument
Teachers demonstrated to us in many ways
how to approach problems and solve them

Whenever we make mistakes and commit errors
Teachers always remind us that there is
nothing to be ashamed of because
we are still apprentices and not yet masters
Sometimes, when we are depressed
our teachers are always there to motivate
us with sweet words of encouragement

They taught us that the world we live in
is a planet which rotates and revolves
That on this planet there are two-legged,
four-legged and multi-legged creatures
That human beings belong to the two-legged
species and have many colors and languages

Our teachers taught us that one man can
make a difference in the world we live in
Men like Abraham Lincoln, Mao Tsetung,
Lenin, Mandela, Mohammad Ali and Bill Gates
Our teachers are sources of inspiration
Can we live without our teachers?  You decide!


The dozen acknowledgements above represent just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. I am convinced, after spending almost a half-century working in the field of education, that there are vast numbers of individuals (perhaps a silent majority) who are in awe of what teachers accomplish every day. They remember fondly what was done for them, and what is being done now for children today.

And finally, there is a You Tube video which has been recently circulating that is entitled “A Teacher Explains What Teachers Really Do All Day.” The link below provides a lighthearted description of the multiplicity of the tasks teachers do as presented by NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia.

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Permission is granted for reprinting and distribution of this newsletter for non-commercial use only. Please include the following citation on all copies:
Oliver, Bruce. “Elevating Educators.” Just for the ASKing! May 2016. Reproduced with permission of Just ASK Publications & Professional Development (Just ASK). © 2016 Just ASK. All rights reserved. Available at