No, the title is not a personal confession, though I am married to a woman who got her degree in education, so…
It seems plenty of folks outside the classroom have recently become more infatuated with teachers and the activities inside the classroom than the guys from Van Halen were in their 1984 song.
I get the general intrigue. I’ve always been amazed by teachers.
Going to school in the Wolsey School system at the time I did, it was hard not to be enthralled by educators. A child encountered iconic teachers in the Wolsey system like Mrs. Ransom, Mrs. Diegel, and Mrs. Mutch and that was before even leaving the grade school.
It was not uncommon for a student in Marlys Diegel’s classroom to see her pull out a notebook that she kept and have her trace back one of the students in the class multiple generations, showing that she had now taught at least two generations of a family.
Being able to encounter teachers in high school that challenged and pushed me like Mrs. Decker (sadly just for one year) and Mrs. Scheel, allowed me to explore the world when I left high school with my mind prepared rather than shocked as I experienced the change of tiny Wolsey to inner-city Minneapolis.
While some level of state history was scattered in multiple places, the biggest focus on the state’s history was in eighth grade with the superintendent of the school teaching the class.
In order to get her teaching certificate in South Dakota when we got married, my wife had to take a South Dakota history course that had a distinct focus on Native American history in the state. No slight to Superintendent Doug Voss, but I learned significantly more about the state’s indigenous history in helping my wife study than I did in that eighth-grade class.
Then, my wife and I took courses to be foster parents. As part of Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) training that’s required of the foster training, I learned even more about the state’s history with its indigenous residents than I knew before.
I asked the instructor after class why the disparity between what I learned in school and what I’d learned since.
“Simple,” he stated. “It doesn’t make the white person sound good.”
It was blunt, but it wasn’t wrong. Now raising four children with multi-racial heritage, I understand that their experience of the world is vastly different when compared to the one I experienced growing up, and it isn’t due to new technology or “wokism” as some may want to say - it’s absolutely due to the simple color of their skin and features of their body that they cannot change.
Hearing state legislators proudly state that they intend to withhold funding from state public schools and colleges that don’t teach the curriculum that they prefer should be very concerning to everyone.
Whitewashing history is exactly how it is repeated.
We must learn from history.
Did you know that during the early days of the Great Depression, a forcefully segregated African-American district of Tulsa, Oklahoma was actually thriving financially, with banks that supported people of color who could not do business anywhere else?
Did you know that this district lasted until those whose finances had been ruined by the depression of 1920/1921, which collapsed the banks that people of color could not even access, chose to destroy that thriving district?
We are coming on the 100th anniversary of that horrible event in a matter of weeks. I did not learn of it until I got to college and had friends who were descended from survivors.
That’s not a rip on any of the amazing teachers I mentioned above or the other amazing educators along the way whose names I did not mention but also greatly influenced my life.
They primarily taught the curriculum given to them, for better or worse.
I loved when a teacher went “off book” and used a cultural example like a popular movie or music to relate historical events as it changed the events from rehearsed to experiential.
In this state, teachers aren’t paid enough to be activists.
Already, educational funding is at such a low point that potentially excellent teachers are choosing other professions. Decisions on curriculum are often exclusively made by school boards that are comprised primarily of those who hold no degree in education nor have any experience in the classroom.
Policies for how the classroom should be conducted are out of the hands of those who are actually in the classroom, frequently dictated by those parents who speak loudest at those school board meetings.
We in this state are hot for teachers and for teaching — until they try to actually teach. Then, we try to dictate the rules of their classrooms.
Huron says goodbye to Terry Nebelsick after this school year following a long, illustrious career, and as a Wolsey grad, I did not interact with him in school, but I did when he was a referee on the basketball court.
As an end-of-the-bench player, I didn’t get in much, but in my senior year, I had a game that I was on the court and grabbed multiple rebounds of my own missed shots until I got fouled. After missing the first free throw, I was clearly frustrated with continually missing shots.
Terry, ever having love and care for a student, took the ball to pass to me and said something to the effect of, “you still have one, son.”
I made the free throw, the only made shot of seven or eight I attempted that night.
Educators in our state do the job for the love of the job. Instead of legislating the state completely out of a public school option by eliminating the educators from the system, perhaps it’d do our legislators well to consider where to place their heat and where to send a thank-you card.