An apple has long been a symbol of education; think of the familiar tradition of children bringing apples to their teachers.
According to Smithsonian magazine, families in the frontier days were often responsible for housing and feeding frontier teachers, and supposedly during the Great Depression farmers were known to offer educators a bushel of apples to help them through hard times.
Teachers were recognized as part of the proverbial village that raises a child and were therefore supported by the community.
My son started first grade last week, and I know these times are hard, too.
When I mentioned to a colleague that we went to meet my son’s teacher at the school open house, he responded, “He’s lucky he has a teacher.”
He’s right. Teachers are leaving the profession in droves. School districts across the country are facing teacher shortages.
Times are indeed hard, but not in the same way as the Depression era of the 1930s. I’m not just talking about COVID-19, either. It’s parents. It’s school administration. It’s legislation. It’s larger class sizes, higher student need, poor work conditions, insufficient support, not enough supplies, mass shootings, manipulated curricula, political scrutiny, low wages and hostile school-board meetings.
There are no apples for teachers now. We give them days of stress and heartache instead. We hand over our children and then hover over every school-day detail. From helicopter to lawn mower parenting, we have bulldozed through every semblance of childhood autonomy and micromanaged the village.
There’s a difference between being active in your child’s life and a full-on manipulation of their life experience to the point they cannot untether long enough to develop into their own selves.
Yes, I was a latchkey Gen-X kid. No, I am not saying that the free-rein way I grew up was ideal. I know that I walked a much farther distance home from school alone, at an age my child would not be permitted to do so. I know that a teacher is not always correct in the same way I know that a child is not always wrong.
We are all human after all. But we are also all on the same team, doing the work to raise the best humans possible.
I also know that a required college education to receive entry-level pay of $30,000 is criminal. Our children deserve educated, competent, well-supported teachers in their classrooms.
Parenting is hard, and yes, education should be accountable. Systems should support a public-school infrastructure that values the people literally in charge of our future.
Today’s elementary school child will be who cares for you and your community when you are elderly. If you do not back teachers, you do not value the future of this country.
That support starts at home. As the young person in your family heads back to school this fall, treat teachers as the vital part of your family’s team that they are. Power down the lawn mower and support the village that helps raise your child.
Maybe even show your support with a nice, shiny apple while you’re at it.
— Bonnie Jean Feldkamp is a wife, mother of three kids, and the opinion editor of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Louisville Courier-Journal. She can be contacted at email@example.com, followed through her YouTube channel and on Twitter: @WriterBonnie, or click here to learn more about her. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.