At the end of the opening ceremonies for the Winter Olympics, NBC interviewed one of our American athletes who competes in the bobsled event. He was a gold medalist at the previous games, but I had no idea who he was because his sport does not command the media’s attention as does figure skating or downhill skiing. This lack of a celebrity status for someone who is famous in his sport made me think of our individual teachers who are doing a superb job with their students but are for the most part, not gaining a lot of individual public attention. It is of course interesting times with legislators debating how to better support education without simply raising the amount of funds dedicated to our schools. The majority of the 620 Kenai teachers is aware of this debate but is not doing much to participate in it; their attention is on their students. It is somewhat ironic then, that the larger discussion of whether public funds for education are being well used, rarely draws in a focus group of teachers to share their ideas.
The distance between what is happening in our classrooms and what some of the public perceive as poor schools can only be narrowed by actually spending time in schools. It is easy to write an opinion piece claiming that our schools are failing because of a test score. My challenge to those who feel that this is the case is to spend a day at school observing the daily routines. Those who choose to do so will find teachers, like the bobsledder, who are stars to their students and schools but generally unknown by the greater public. This is as it should be, a teacher’s energy needs to be on his or her students. With that said, those who debate the merits of public education do have a duty to spend some time at the classroom level and not be overly swayed by the rhetoric of those who have not set foot in a public school in the last fifteen years.