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We Can Do Better Than Matt Damon

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By now you've most likely heard about or seen the video of Matt Damon speaking out on behalf of teachers at the Save Our Schools rally in Washington, D.C. It was a nice speech where he really seemed to speak from his heart. He shared that the biggest parts of who he is today, are not those that can be measured on a test. As you can imagine, he drew lots of applause from the crowd on that comment.

Most newsworthy though were his comments to a reporter and her cameraman about their assertions about why teachers don't work hard enough. Personally, I think it's been overplayed and it's been bothering me a bit as I question why this is making the news in such a big way.

First off, I have nothing against Matt Damon. I think he's a smart guy and I've enjoyed his movies. I like that his mom is an educator and that he is speaking up on behalf of educators. We definitely need more of that. What bothers me is that he was rude to the reporter and her cameraman when they were trying to engage him in a conversation. A simple question about job security functioning as a motivating factor for hard work, is not a bad question. Is it? I mean, I think that question deserves some real attention. In all sectors of society, aren't there people with no (or less) incentive to work hard because their benefits come regardless? Why should teachers be any different? Are we talking about all teachers?  Are we saying this is the way to "fix the system?" Maybe it's not about salary but about testing.  If teachers teach because we're passionate about it, then why is salary such an issue? These are conversations that need to be encouraged.

But it's a little muddy now because Matt was rude. And we applauded.

So, here he had the spotlight and an opportunity to say something that could really make a difference for so many people, and instead he says to the cameraman, "Maybe you're a Sh**y cameraman!"

I think one of the reason educators have been holding tightly to this Matt Damon thing is because of that feeling of helplessness. Will THIS will be the moment that people will really listen? I mean, because Matt Damon said it so, uh... eloquently?

Sorry, but I think he blew it and by holding him up in high esteem, we are not doing ourselves any favors. 

Damon's speech was OK but I know so many educators who could have totally blown him out of the water. So many who could deliver a speech where the content and delivery would have people feeling truly empowered. Of course, they aren't Hollywood superstars so they're not likely to get the stage time that Damon so easily gets, but the folks at Education Nation are holding an essay contest and I think this gives teachers a great opportunity to have their voices heard.

Enter the essay contest and if you win, they will fly you out to NYC in September to attend the Teacher Town Hall (PDF).

The topic for the 800-word essay is:

What are the biggest challenges you face in your job, and how do you measure your own success on a daily basis?

They also promise to publish the winning essays on their website. If you share your entry with me, I will consider it for publication here (and on my personal blog). If you're interested in having me publish your essay, please send it to me via email at lee.kolbert at gmail.com

Do you have something to say? Why not give it a shot? I know we can do better than Matt Damon.