I don't know how many of you keep up with all the yah yah that has been going on in Alabama's legislative system, but they have really been on a tear and out for blood with Alabama's teachers. All the small perks we have had for the past many years have been taken away from us. In a state that ranks 49th in teacher pay, perks were all we had...and now that is gone. Well...the Alabama legislature in their infinite wisdom has now passed a new
ethics law that prohibits teachers from taking gifts from students and parents. I don't know about other teachers but the most expensive gift I ever got was a candle...or maybe it was a Christmas ornament....or it could have been the homemade hot chocolate mix. I was a parent of students who gave gifts...and believe me with three kids in school I never gave any gift that was of any great value (no season tickets to an Auburn or Alabama game from my kids). This morning a teacher in Semmes, Alabama's editorial made facebook and I just had to share Paulette's comments with you all. It makes you wonder what the people we elect to represent us were thinking, don't you think? "Alabama’s new ethics law will not have much of an impact on teachers, other than the classroom discussion that will be a natural outgrowth of the misguided application of this law.In all my years of teaching, I have received many gifts from
students — most of them acceptable under the new ethics guidelines. On a few occasions, I have been given gifts and gift certificates that will now be illegal. But the most valuable gifts I have received are far beyond the reach of any legislative act.The ethics of most teachers are guided by giving, not receiving. Just this year alone, I was privileged to buy uniforms for four or so students. (I personally have helped obtain prom dresses for students who wanted to go to their Jr.-Sr. prom and could not afford it.) I supplied several students with school supplies: pencils, pens, notebooks, dividers and paper. Then there are the backpacks and shoes some of my students needed, not to mention the groceries and even a bit of cash for one struggling family. Just this year I have had students and their families who needed legal help, medical care and mental health services; so I did my best to direct them to agencies that could help them. On top of all this and at my own expense, I keep my classroom supplied with tissues, paper towels and hand sanitizer. I could go on at length and let you know about the ethics of Alabama teachers who have taken in homeless students, bought college textbooks for former students and helped graduating seniors get dress clothes and caps and gowns. For almost every student who receives a scholarship, there is a teacher who has taken the time to write recommendations. (There is also the many times I have translated documents for the school system, the city, churches, parents....and translators make around 50.00 an hour....but I did it for nothing because it was my job to help my students.) I (and any other teacher in this state.....or any state) could write a book on all of the things teachers do because we care about our students, not because we are bribed or paid for it, not because we get gifts, and certainly not because we are wealthy. We do it because we care. So, Alabama Ethics Commission, there is no way you can legislate against the gifts I receive from my students. I get to see their eyes light up when they finally understand new ideas and concepts. I am privileged to see a child get excited over a backpack, dance delightedly because of new shoes, scream over college scholarships, or cry when he or she gets help with college expenses. Most valuable of all, I am given gratitude. I have received elaborate cards, scribbled crumpled notes, telephone calls and visits that let me know that whatever little I have done has at least made some difference in the life of a child. Oh, I love the cups and cookies and cakes and notepads. But the gift that is so valuable and cannot be taken away by a legislative act is: I get to teach. Now, Alabama Ethics Commission — if you can find any of your former teachers who are not ashamed to say that they taught you — buy your former teachers a big, expensive, wonderful gift and then write 100 times: “A $10 gift card is not going to corrupt education.” And, by the way, get out your old civics textbook. You need to remember that corruption is not usually the problem of those on whom the law is imposed. It is usually the problem of those who write the laws. Teachers are not the wellspring of corruption, and a Christmas turkey is not going to change us. We are teachers; we care; we make a difference. You legislators just craft laws, disguise PAC contributions and daily show your total disregard for those of us who make a difference in the lives of all Alabama children. We teach — and will continue to do so — because we care, not because we get gifts." Paulette Davis, who has taught for 34 years, teaches Honors English at Mary G. Montgomery High School in Semmes, AL. To Ms. Davis I tip my hat and say, "You Go Girl!"