The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


National debate discourages teachers, but student speaks out

Around the country, tempers are running short over the battle between state governments and public sector employees. In states like New Jersey and Wisconsin, the rights and benefits of teachers’ unions have become a particularly incendiary subject.

Governments argue that in a time of mammoth budget shortfalls and economic stagnation, it’s only fair that teachers sacrifice some of their comfortable job benefits. Teachers respond that they work incredibly hard at difficult jobs and deserve to be compensated accordingly.

I understand where both sides are coming from.

As someone whose mother is a public school teacher, I know just how much of themselves many teachers pour into their jobs, only to be rewarded by the indifference or outright hostility of students and administrators.

On the other hand, I also understand that many governments—not least of all the federal one—are in serious fiscal trouble and must make painful cuts in their budgets. I won’t even pretend to know how these two sides can best be reconciled.

But I also know that many teachers are feeling like this national debate has become a referendum on their worth to society and that, as a whole, America doesn’t appreciate their value and importance. I want to tell them about some of the teachers I’ve had.

There was Mrs. Young, my first grade teacher. I can only remember one specific fact she taught me: that a noun is a person, place, or thing.

But I also remember her as the best teacher I ever had, and that I cried the last day of class because I didn’t want to leave her.

When my hometown was embroiled in race riots, my second grade teacher, Mrs. Weller, saw an opportunity to teach her students a once-in-a-lifetime lesson.

We interviewed men and women of all classes and colors about how the riots had affected them. The other day, I found the book of reflections the class wrote in response to these discussions.

I couldn’t believe how hopefully and how simply we related to the subject.

At the time, I didn’t understand how powerful Mrs. Weller’s challenge to us was; today, I recognize it as the first time I engaged with the world in the hope that it can become a better place.

There was Mr. Topper, whose elementary school drama class I joined simply because I thought he was a funny guy. Today, I’m about to graduate with a BFA in theater and begin a career as an actor—I’ll let you guess whom my parents blame for that particular folly.

When my seventh grade English class read “The Giver,” Mr. Kooken suggested that I read “1984” and “Animal Farm,” too. I didn’t quite grasp the allegorical significance of Snowball and Napoleon, but I did try to sit down and write my own Orwellian dystopic novel.

There were others.

There was Ms. Walters and Mrs. Greenfield, Mr. Zuercher and Mrs. Lee, Ms. Bail and Mrs. Hansen. I think of all of them and the specific lessons they taught me every once in a while; I live the passions they instilled and nurtured in me every day.

I’m just one person, and these are just a handful of the teachers who helped me become who I am today.

Around the country, there are millions of other students who have been shaped by thousands of other teachers. If they ever feel frustrated or under-appreciated, those teachers should look at the young adults they’ve produced. We know how much we owe them.

Nathaniel French is a senior theater major. He can be reached for comment at [email protected].

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