Tuesday, March 23, 2010


According to Dictionary.com, Weed is defined as follows:

1. a valueless plant growing wild, esp. one that grows on cultivated ground to the exclusion or injury of the desired crop.
2. any undesirable or troublesome plant, esp. one that grows profusely where it is not wanted.

For those of you who do not know, I'm teaching in a district where the teachers do not have a contract. We have been negotiating to come up with an equitable contract that is best for the district, teachers and the students. I'm not going to get into the logistics of the negotiating process, but I do want to comment on what one School Board member was overheard saying. One board member, who has been screaming for pay cuts up to 22% for some teachers, was heard saying that Teachers are the weeds of the district. Now, he claims that the comment was taken out of context. I'm not sure what context being called a weed is ok, but many of us were very hurt by this comment.

According to the definition, a weed is a valueless plant. Statements like that make me feel valueless. I'm up and at school by 6:50am to get ready for school that starts at 8:00am. I chaperon dances, advise student clubs, tutor outside of school hours, mentor at-risk students, run a tech blog for the district and a host of many other things that have significant value to my school and the lives of students. I do not have to do any of those things. I do them because I know that students need the support of their teachers to be successful in school. What role do you, Mr. School Board Member, actually play in their education? How many times have you been in my building? Have you even been to all of the buildings in the district. A little bird has told me no. If you pull us out of the district, what is going to grow in it's place?

Mr. School Board Member, we are not the weeds of the district garden. We are the gardener. We work hard to cultivate the minds and bodies of your children to ensure they will grow just right. We plant the seeds of success in our students. The seeds of knowledge, the seeds of integrity, the seeds of hope, the seeds of inspiration, the seeds of dreams, the seeds love and so many more. If you remove the gardeners, what do you have? Are you going to plant the seeds? Do you know how to plant?

We were hired to do a tough, back breaking job. Every year, the state gives us less support and fewer tools, but we are expected to produce an even better crop than the year before. For years, we have produced some of the best students in the state and I'm proud to be a part of that. There is only so much you can take away from teachers before it does impact the students in the classroom. You hired some of the best gardeners in the state, why turn your back on us now? Have you thought about what your garden is going to look like when you get rid of all of the master gardeners?

While I was at the board meeting last night, I was almost moved to tears at the supportive Tweets from my PLN when I passed on the "weeds" comment. I know that what I do every day matters because there are people around the world that do the same thing and I know they matter. I have value because I see the kids smile when the realize they learn something. I have value because students run to me to let me know they got into their first choice of college. I have value because graduates come back and thank me for project that taught them Mood and Tone. I have value because without me, who is going to teach these children? Is it you Mr. School Board Member?


  1. I cannot believe that someone had the gall to compare teachers to weeds. This perpetuates the negative societal view of teachers as being in the profession because of the summers off! No one can truly understand the demands (both in and out of the classroom) of a teacher without having ever been one.

    From our time conversing both on Twitter and via each others' blogs, I truly believe that you are a fantastic teacher Nick and a valuable member of my PLN! Your students are lucky to have you. Don't ever let some ignorant third-party ever lead you to believe otherwise.

  2. The one thing your school board member has that you don't is an election coming up. I don't know how big your district is but I suspect that a little press coverage of that "slip" could cause the member some real trouble. (Of course it might be a problem because it could take the focus off the negotiations.)

    Did someone call him out publicly about his statement?

  3. Vanessa, Thanks you very much for the kind words. That put a smile on my face. I feel the same way about the ideas we have shared on Twitter as well. Keep sharing and I will keep reading. :-)

    Wm Chamberlain, I appreciate the support. There is a group considering a recall effort. With over half of the teachers living in the district, there is a good chance to start something going. He was not called out by name regarding the "weeds" comment, but during our time to speak at the meeting, our Union President mentioned it. Layoffs will be announced in a month. We will see what happens after that.

    Thanks to both of you again for reading. I truly appreciate it. :-)

  4. I know it's not what the SB member meant- but keep in mind how quickly a weed can take root, spread, and be a force in a community's garden. Do not underestimate your power! Good luck in what sounds like a tough spot. You may have to be as tenacious as a weed to survive there.

  5. I think Vanessa has said it best. 'You are a valuable teacher and an integral part of my PLN'
    I know that I myself learn from you frmm both your posts and tweets.

    You and many others do wonders > never forget that!
    As as mrs1330 said "You may have to be as tenacious as a weed to survive there.'

    Pleased I was not at that meeting, I would have been devastated. @2sparkley

  6. Thank you. We are often under-valued by the people whose jobs depend on us! When I read that last night, I was disgusted. As you noted, many of us spend countly hours of our own time just so that things will be better for our students. A teacher is not what I do, it is what I am.

    Good luck in the coming weeks. My response to comments like this is always the same: http://www.asdk12.org/schools/chinook/pages/What%20A%20Teacher%20Makes.pdf

  7. Hear hear! A passionate post by a passionate educator! How on earth can teachers bring out the best in students if that's what they are subjected to? Good luck, your PLN is with you.

  8. I had a similar experience recently when the front page of the local paper openly criticized teachers for getting raises (even though these were multi-year contracts). The paper put the article on their website and the comments were heartbreaking. The things that members of the community were saying about teachers were terrible. If it were not for my colleagues, both physical and virtual my moral would have been irreparably damaged. Keep up the good work! Your students appreciate it, even if the bean counters do not.

  9. This is what I see as the main problem with education that it is run by people who do not step in a classroom or school for a long period of time to see how hard teachers work. Therefore, I tend to brush these hurtful things aside and concentrate on my student evaluations and progress. What they think of my teaching matters the most to me, because ultimately they will replace leaders like these.

    For the past years I have read too many accounts of leadership that has stolen money, called people names, fired everyone that works for them, lied about research, and cheated people. I wonder what kind of teachers and parents raised these leaders and I aim to create leaders who do care about people and critically think. I want my students to learn to collaborate with others and learn that team work and respecting others is the best way to solve solutions. We should work with each other to improve every environment. I hope my students learn this and that is what I'm waiting for. I'm waiting for my students, your students, and other students impacted by the incredible educators in our PLN to take over and make a difference in their future positions. So don't fret because soon people like this will be replaced when people get tired that all they have time to do is complain and place blame rather than taking the time to come up with real solutions to real problems.

  10. What a horrible comment! Keep fighting the good fight and keep your head up! Try to stay positive and block out the negative (which seems to be thrown our way more often in teaching).

  11. Get that school board member to spend a day teaching in your schools!

    Keep up the fight because you are right!

    If you need help or support don't hesitate to let us know!

  12. *standing ovation* Well said.
    I cannot believe the utter stupidity and brash assumptions made by individuals who wouldn't know their head from...well other things.
    I hope that others were as appalled as we all are and didn't take the weed comment to heart but were angry enough about it to enact change.
    We are right here with ya.

  13. I have been a Special Educator for over 30 years. I have taught children with learning disabilities, autism, vision and hearing impairments, and emotional problems. I teach the weeds od the classroom. The ones who don't belong. They have taught me many lessons and most of them have gone on to productive lives. My own children have had great teachers. Because of that one is now a Doctor who is saving lives in a trauma center. We need better pay not less. I hope your Board Member who obviously knows nothing of education never needs a Doctor.


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