By Drs. Adam Jordan and Todd Hawley
“You don’t have to be indoctrinated by these loser teachers that are trying to sell you on socialism from birth. You don’t have to do it. Because you can think for yourselves. They can’t.” — Donald Trump Jr.
Last Monday, just before President Trump spoke at his border-wall rally in El Paso, Texas, our president’s son took the stage and called teachers “losers.”
We tire of this, but rest doesn’t bring change. Teachers need our support. They need us to take a stand against those who don’t understand what teachers actually do, yet seize any opportunity to put them down. We call on all y’all to resist the narrative where teachers are “losers.” We also ask you to take a stand for all teachers.
Fortunately, Southerners love a good scrap. It’s somehow ingrained into our DNA. Maybe that strand of rebellion carries on through our blood because we are used to defending the Southern mountains, piedmonts, and coastlines we call home. Maybe it is because we are used to combating stereotypes that portray us as toothless, uneducated sons of guns. We are used to social media memes — all white, overweight, angry, distraught, and confused under a red ball cap. The memes ignore those in our Southern fold who take stands against constant racism, sexism, classism, and ableism even in our own lands. Make no mistake, we get tired of all that mess. But then we put on our bitter boots and struggle for a better South. We get tired, but we still love a scrap.
You know who else loves a scrap? Teachers. Teachers are used to being called glorified babysitters with summers off. They’re used to working multiple jobs to make ends meet. They live paycheck to paycheck while spending chunks of those paychecks on the students in their classrooms. Teachers get tired, too. We know it. But you know what? Teachers persist. They pull on their bitter boots and they struggle for a better public education system.
As y’all know, we love teachers, and our work aims to change the national perception that teachers are overpaid losers who don’t deserve respect.
Today, we again take a stand for all Southern teachers — with an ode to all you “loser teachers” and Bitter Southerners. We write in recognition of all you sacrifice because you pursue the profession you love. We write to celebrate your scrappy persistence.
We know you heard those words and blessed every ounce of the privileged heart they came from, then pushed through your day with brilliant pedagogical approaches — with kind and loving smiles for the kids you teach. We hope you enjoy the words that follow as irregular as the nonsensical reality we must currently observe where “leaders” mock the very profession that weaves the fabric of their nation.
An Ode to Loser Teachers
For years teachers strive and push for knowledge.
Knowledge they intend to share with kindness.
Indeed they are losers.
Losers of freedom,
burdened by ballooning student loans and unfair wages.
Still, paycheck to paycheck they keep pushing,
their well-being second to the minds and souls of those before them.
Losers of respect,
“Socialists,” “enemies of the State.”
Silk-stockinged leaders beat the war drum and brand them losers incapable of free thought.
They hear the drum and know it signals the loss of their autonomy, the theft of public trust.
Losers of time,
working late nights and weekends planning lessons on algebra, history, and DNA replication.
Duties performed outside their working hours,
brains never given the option to disengage.
Losers of sleep,
they lie awake in worry,
fretting over the well-being
of the students they love.
Losers they may be,
as so much has been stolen.
But they will persist. It is in their love-hewn brains.
Their profession is for others, not themselves. Thus they persist.
Losers of patience,
they are, certainly.
They’ve reached a boiling point. They will strike, write, speak, march. But they won’t lose their minds, and they won’t lose their students.
Losers of the ability to banish the thought,
that never leaves their minds:
Without teachers, who will help?
Without teachers, we’re all losers.
Bitter Southerners, we urge all y’all to support your public school teachers. There can be no “better South” without public education. As many of our Southern states entertain exclusionist policies of school choice, we will witness the further segregation of our already too-segregated schools. We will see communities marginalized. We will witness a rapid about-face on the progress we’ve made.
Teachers are not losers. Teachers are warriors. We wish they didn’t have to carry such a warlike label, but the reality is, they’re under attack.
To quote Florence Reece, “Which side are you on?”
Adam and Todd can be reached via Twitter: @aj_wade (Adam) and @115CoffeePot (Todd). Tell them about the good teachers in your life by using the hashtag #SouthernSchooling.