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A Teacher's New Year's Challenge

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Sherri McPherson is a National Board Certified Teacher with 13 years' experience. She currently teaches English/Language Arts at Lafayette High School in Lexington, Kentucky.

As 2014 approaches, I have been reflecting on 2013 and looking forward to the New Year. It seems that 2013 produced many negative news stories about schools, teachers, and students. As a teacher, I know there are areas that need improvement in education; however, I also see many great things happening in our schools every day. It is my wish to see that those great happenings are given equal press.

I see colleagues who come to school early and stay late to help students. I see colleagues who take up a collection to help pay for a prom dress for a student who cannot afford one. I see colleagues walking the halls holding the hands of students with special needs. I see colleagues and students who "show up" every day and fight against the negative stereotypes of teachers and students who don't care. I see students who organize events to raise money for victims of the Haiti earthquake or Sandy Hook school shooting. I see students who volunteer their time to teach younger students dance, music, or math. I see students who choose to do the right thing despite their personal circumstances. Yet, I rarely see those stories published.

When the news reports only reflect the negative, it only tells a part of the story. After all, there are many things that are "right" with our schools. Likewise, there are many more students and teachers doing the right thing than the wrong thing. Please don't always pitch the story that parents are against teachers, teachers are against the district office, and students are against all of us. If you look closely, you will see us working together despite budget cuts, negative press, and an ever-changing system. You will see parents and community members serving on committees, building sets for the school play, and guest lecturing on career day. We work together because we all want our students to have the best opportunities, facilities, and experiences. Many times the negative press disregards our collaborative efforts.

It is my belief that if we all work together, we can make 2014 the year of positive press for our schools. Here is my challenge: for every negative story, publish a positive one. Teachers and students, we aren't off the hook either. We need to speak up in our community about what is right with our schools. Parents and community members, we need you to speak up as well. When someone in the public presents an uninformed view of our work, use your voice to share the true details of our efforts. We need to speak frankly about the hard work we are doing and how the public negativity is both disheartening and unproductive. In truth, it is easier to dwell on the negative aspects of our schools. It is much harder to roll our sleeves up and strive to make our schools better. Take up my New Year's challenge. Speak positively about our schools, teachers, and students.

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