“Buncha friggin leeches…get back to work on our taxpayer dime…”

The previous quote was written by a member of our community and posted to a local buy/sell group’s Facebook page. (I took screenshots of the now-deleted post for future reference.) It was directed at my friends and colleagues, the teachers of the Southern Boone School District, whom the commenter also called “UNDERWORKED” in all capital letters.

Travis Naughton

I will not give light to the commenter’s arguments written in support of his or her outrageous statement, nor will I reveal the author’s name. It is sufficient to say that the person was not in favor of the fundraiser currently underway at the district’s primary and elementary schools.

Of course, all taxpayers have a right to discuss issues affecting our public schools. And as Americans, we do have a right to say hideous things about decent people who have devoted their lives to helping others. However, just because we have the right to say hateful things, does not mean that we are obligated to do so.

In the past, I have made the mistake of posting things online that went well beyond the bounds of common decency. The anonymity of the web allows people to share opinions they may not otherwise feel safe or brave enough to repeat to someone’s face. I suspect, in the case of our local internet troll, that he or she would never tell a kindergarten teacher that she is a “friggin leech” in person. I should hope not.

I would encourage anyone who feels that kindergarten teachers are “underworked” to spend a few days volunteering in an actual classroom. Better yet, try your hand at substitute teaching in kindergarten. I dare you.

I’ve worked as a groundskeeper, a meat cutter, a retail store manager, and many other jobs over the course of my lifetime. None left me as exhausted as I feel when I come home after a long day of teaching young children. And as a substitute, my job is infinitely less demanding than that of a full-time educator.

Teachers usually arrive at school by 7:30 each morning and often don’t get home until 6:00 or later—much later on parent-teacher conference nights and when helping with extra-curricular activities. Even when they’re home, they’re usually working on lesson plans, grading papers, or agonizing about how to get through to a student who comes to school tired and hungry every day because of a stressful situation at home.

In the classroom, educators teach lessons in math, reading, writing, social studies, and science while managing frequent disruptive behaviors. In their “down time”, teachers meet with their colleagues for curriculum planning, serve on committees, and collaborate with one another on various projects. They attend conferences, they observe other teachers, and they meet with principals for evaluations and feedback. And of course they make time to talk with concerned parents.

Those “underworked” teachers are constantly being pressured to bring all of their students’ test scores up to inflexible, state-mandated standards, regardless of whether or not a student is homeless, being abused, or has serious behavioral issues.

It’s also important to note that those “friggin leeches” who are living it up on the “taxpayer’s dime” also have to endure active shooter training in which they learn what to do in order to protect their students in the event a madman decides it might be fun to kill a bunch of kids.

And do not doubt for one second that if called upon to do so, those teachers would give their lives to save your children—the same children they come to love almost as much as their own.

I struggled for days after reading those appalling online comments. I was disgusted. I was incensed. I was deeply saddened. I wasn’t sure whether to further publicize the commenter’s hateful opinions in this column or if it would be a better idea to just let the whole ugly matter go. Ultimately, I decided that if anyone else was thinking that the caring and dedicated educators we are blessed to have in the Southern Boone school district are underworked leeches, I would be remiss if I did not attempt to set the record straight.

The fundraiser in question, by what I have seen with my own eyes while working at the primary school, is an overwhelmingly positive experience for the kids. The emphasis is on building students into strong leaders and decent human beings. I’ve interacted with the coordinators who are in the building each day interacting with the children, and I can tell you that they are good people. And the kids absolutely love them.

Like all school fundraisers, a portion of the proceeds go to the school and a portion to the company facilitating the event. It is no different than buying fruit or cookie dough from a member of FFA or the marching band.

Regardless of whether you think fundraisers are necessary or appropriate, there are better and more effective ways to express your opinion than by launching personal, vile attacks on teachers—especially the compassionate, kind, and capable people who teach at Southern Boone. The residents of the greater Ashland/Hartsburg area are overwhelmingly supportive of our schools and our outstanding teachers, and for that I thank you.

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