As classrooms around the state fill up for the start of the school year this week, we are also entering the season of hand-wringing over the abysmal performance of Idaho on almost every national measure of educational achievement. And there are organizations in this state that make it their (lucrative) business making hay of low test scores, crumbling facilities, bad graduation rates and how many Gem State kids "fail" to "go on" to college.
Idaho teachers are not to blame for these shortcomings. Nor is it the fault of their union or "greedy" school districts that ask voters to support levies. When criticism of policies like Common Core pop up in op-eds, it's not the teachers implementing them who are at fault for whatever perceived problems they present.
Still, too often, when we talk about the real problems facing education in Idaho, teachers are either directly lumped in with the litany of woes or, by failure of recognition, included in the mess by default.
I've spent most of my life surrounded by educators; I'm married to one and the son of another. I'm proud of them all year long, but especially this time of year when I have the privilege of experiencing their enthusiasm for once more opening the doors to their classrooms. It's always inspiring, even humbling, to see with what dedication and honest-to-god joy they go about preparing for their students—all this in spite of the prevailing narrative that they're participating in a system that's broken at best and an embarrassment at worst.
Despite the grimness peddled by some lobbyists, legislators, professional pundits and flacks, life-changing successes occur all the time throughout our education system—and they frequently do occur in spite of the work of those lobbyists, legislators, pundits and flacks.
We absolutely have problems in our educational system, but dedicated, passionate teachers willing to do much with little isn't one of them. Maybe "proud" isn't the best way to describe how I feel about the work of my and other Idaho teachers—how about, "in awe."