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Highland Rambler

Highland Rambler

Teachers Rally To “Let Teachers Teach”

Luca DiGregorio
Highland teacher Kyle Bracken speaks during the teacher’s rally at the capitol.

Teachers from several districts gathered at the Utah State Capitol on Tuesday afternoon under the slogan “Let Teachers Teach,” frustrated at the seeming lack of support from the state legislature in regards to how they run their classrooms.
“Education bills in the legislature have been driven for the last couple years by a distrust of teachers and our public schools,” John Arthur, a 6th grade teacher at Meadowlark Elementary and 2021 Utah Teacher of the Year, said.
Arthur was joined by several other speakers, including Union President James Tobler and Highland teacher Kyle Bracken.
“I have had an incredible career, with support from students, parents, staff and administrators,” Bracken said. “But at the state legislative level I often see efforts to privatize education or cut funds for public schools.”
Many teachers feel disrespected and villainized recently by many parents and lawmakers because of the subject material teachers are using to teach difficult or controversial subjects. Most of these parents and lawmakers have no experience or training in educating future generations. Teachers are not only highly trained to do their job, but also typically have years of experience as student-teachers and as actual teachers in a classroom with students.
“Teachers went from being heaven-sent miracle workers during COVID to being brainwashers who want to corrupt kids and make them feel bad,” Sarah Nichols, a behavior specialist for the Salt Lake City School District and another speaker at the event, said. “It has been hard, especially because every teacher I know cares so much about their students.”
Recent bills across the United States have given parents and lawmakers more control over what children are allowed to learn, with the result being teachers in some areas are becoming afraid to teach certain subjects or to engage students in meaningful discussions meant to build a better society out of fear of losing their livelihoods.
“Some of the bills we have seen in the past and will see this session are so divisive and will pit parents against teachers…when these bills are in committee and discussed on the floor, it becomes ‘big bad teachers’ against parents and the community,” Nichols said.
The speakers at the rally emphasized the sacrifice many teachers give to help students succeed, from long nights grading hundreds of assignments to helping students who don’t have a safe space to sleep succeed in school. Teachers often have to spend hundreds of their own dollars for classroom materials, such as books, markers, etc. Teachers have to be very passionate about their jobs to be able to overcome these challenges and still come almost everyday to teach. But when the state legislature seems to turn against them, many teachers feel they can’t stay silent.
“These have been tough times for public school teachers, and we all need more joy,” Arthur said.
Despite intense pressure from lawmakers and parents, most teachers feel extremely supported by their community and the people around them.
“As a teacher, I have always felt supported by my students, colleagues, and community,” Arthur said. “It’s the fear-mongering strangers who drive lawmakers to make bad decisions regarding education who make it harder to support teachers in the ways that we need.”
Teachers aren’t here to spread a political agenda or to turn kids against their parents. They’re here to educate kids to build a better society. They want their students to succeed and thrive throughout their lives. But to thrive in America, the land where we are allowed to have starkly different opinions, students have to learn things that people might not agree with. And that’s okay.
“I’m concerned that there are a few people, not the majority, who don’t trust teachers to teach about complex issues in a fair and open manner,” Bracken said. “Sometimes it seems to me that people who hold extremist views see public education as an easy target for them to spread fear about education. Banning books or controversial subjects, having teachers submit lesson plans for review and increasing the administrative tasks that teachers are asked to do, stifles creativity and saps energy from exemplary teachers.”

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