Fans for the Teachers?

 By Clarence J. Fluker

Guest Commentary

Lebron James is undeniably one of the most gifted athletes of our time and will be ranked as one of the greatest men to ever play professional basketball. Over the weekend much of the news media was focused on the decision by Lebron “King” James to leave the Miami Heat, after winning two NBA championship rings with them in just four years, and return to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Millions of sports fans, and some just interested in celebrity news were consumed with the story of the prodigal son’s return to his hometown.

When James steps on the court of Quicken Loans Arena for the first home game of the 2014-2015 NBA season, the roof just may come off from the expected decibel level that will be hit in a crescendo of excitement. A hero will receive a hero’s welcome and all the support that comes along with.

The same day Lebron made his announcement to spend his next several years in Cleveland, nearly 3,000 members of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Union kicked off their biennial national convention in Los Angeles, California. There is one particular bleak contrast between this hero of the basketball courts and those of the classrooms. It isn’t that James performs amazing feats and teachers do not. It isn’t that James surrenders his whole self to the profession that he is passionate about and teachers do not. It isn’t that James inspires young people to pursue their best selves and that teachers do not. In fact, they both do all of those things, each time he laces up and each time they stand in front of a classroom.

What is different between James and this group is perhaps the support they receive from influencers and in communities. A sentiment often shared by teachers at the convention was that they fight on the front lines each day to assure that children from across the country receive a quality education that can open doors of opportunity while they are simultaneously being attacked by a narrative that teachers are what is failing the public education system and our nation’s children.

Where are their fans? Each school year they take their talents to the classrooms. During the convention their avid dialogue and debate during general sessions centered around increasing educator diversity, advocating for wraparound services for children, addressing restorative justice, the need for immigration reform for the sake of young people and meeting the critical needs in the best way possible for all children. There was a spirited debate around common core standards and high stakes testing – yet even then those debating both sides of the issue, weren’t coming from a place of concern about themselves but about the effects of such policies on students. It is their love of and for students that drive them. These teachers encourage, educate and empower each day.

Finger pointing at teachers unions, court battles over due process, funding cuts, increased school closings and privatizations are on the hearts and tongues of AFT members. Many wondering why or how, in their pursuit to get students prepared for life and career, do American teachers return to a standing where they are seen as solutions, not problems. Teachers supporting our young people are looking for support of their own. Now more than ever before, they need strong fans.

PICTURED: Donna Brazile, democratic strategist and co-chair of the newly formed Democrats for Public Education speaking about the need to support teachers and provide adequate resources and direction for the public education system. is a cutting-edge online magazine highlighting progressive urban culture, faith, social change and global awareness. The site offers a platform for young adult perspectives, profiles inspirational visionaries and artists, and serves as an online community for change agents who are like-minded. Founded in 2011 by Rahiel Tesfamariam, Urban Cusp highlights voices, ideas and images not commonly found within mainstream media.

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