Governor Still In Education’s Dog House

As any educator in Alabama (and many outside the state) can tell you, Governor Robert Bentley put his mouth in gear when apparently his brain was still on idle recently by declaring that education in the state “sucks.”

Hundreds of educators have called on the governor to apologize, but he has refused.  (Let the record show that the governor recently took time to pardon Clyde the turkey and give him a reprieve from becoming Thanksgiving dinner, but he has not found time to tell 740,000 students and nearly 100,000 teachers and support personnel that they also get a reprieve from a politician.)

One thing that comes to bear in all of this, as was pointed out here, Governor Bentley is one of the least popular governors in the entire country.  And no doubt, his comment about education dropped his approval rating even more.

DayLee Downs is a middle school teacher in Athens.  She recently took time to send the governor a letter about his comment and how she felt about it.  She got a form letter in return.

Here is the story about Ms. Downs from the Athens News Courier:

“Athens Middle School English teacher DayLee Downs made headlines last week after criticizing Gov. Robert Bentley’s comments that the state’s education system “sucks.”

She shared a letter she had written to Bentley’s office over social media where it was picked up by colleagues and state news outlets. It was a surreal experience, Downs told The News Courier on Friday, but she hopes her true message is being shared along with the story.

“More than anything I want people to know teachers do care,” she said.

The letter, in which Downs admonished and critiqued the governor’s usage of the word “suck,” was an attempt to tell Bentley she was hurt not only by his words but also by the weight his statement could carry to the public.

“Maybe it was an impulsive statement, but it does not accurately represent our school system,” Downs said. “I’m not sure people will realize that. I feel like people are perceiving his statement to be ‘the whole system sucks.’”

Other teachers, even many she doesn’t know, have since sent her messages of solidarity and gratitude for sending the letter.

“I feel very supported in my profession,” she said of the incident. “It really has been a good thing for me. The attention that it received reminded me that teachers are supported.”

Though supported by the public, Bentley himself is another story.

Downs sent her letter Nov. 10 and by Nov. 12 received a response from the governor’s office. What she received was a form letter, or a note copied and sent to whoever contacts Bentley’s office, not personally written by Bentley himself. The form letter only furthered Downs’ frustration over the incident. She said the reply was another expression of the governor’s nonchalant attitude toward Alabama’s public schools.

“I wanted the governor to know — and people in general to know — I was offended by his language, but the apathy saddened and offended me more than anything,” she said.

 If Bentley could only step into a classroom for a day, he would realize teaching is more than stuffing a child’s head with enough facts to pass a standardized test, Downs explained. There’s taking care of physical and emotional needs of a student and shaping their character when they are with the teacher for eight hours a day for nine months of the year.

“It’s a really humanistic profession,” she said. “Our job is to teach students to be change makers. These things don’t show up on a test score.”

In the end, Downs said she would like to receive an apology from Bentley, not just for herself, but her colleagues statewide. That’s one lesson she teaches her children anyway: Apologize for saying something rash and explain how you actually feel.

“I think that after everything we’ve been through with our governor there are people across the state who I’m sure would appreciate him stepping forward and apologizing and explaining himself,” she said. “That would satisfy me more than anything — just for him to apologize.”

Perhaps Ms. Downs just needs to round up a turkey and head to Montgomery.

 

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