Commentary: Our students need caring teachers today

Dr. James B. Ewers Jr.

Commentary: Our students need caring teachers today
January 16
09:03 2020

By Dr. James B. Ewers Jr.

Public education in some ways is in the emergency room. It’s in need of a large dose of competence, compassion and commitment. Critics say it has moved around the American landscape like a leaves blowing in the wind. There have been many prescriptions ordered, but only a few of them have been filled. What are some of the reasons for this unstable existence?

First, there is some perspective that is needed. When I was going to school, I had great respect for my teachers. They imparted knowledge to me in a way that was both firm and fun. Those of us in the 4th quarter of our lives were excited to go to school each day. Our parents instilled in us our attitude about school and our teachers. We never heard them talk negatively about our teachers. Our parents believed that education led to getting better opportunities. 

Teachers in our Winston-Salem community were held in high regard. They were pillars in our community and we always wanted to please them. Teachers carried themselves in a certain way, dressed in a professional manner, and therefore earned the respect they were given.

Teachers back in the day wanted to be teachers. It wasn’t their second or third career choice – it was their first choice! They went to college and with great intention trained to become teachers. They had been around enough role models that they could emulate and gain good teaching habits.

I became a teacher and like those before me, I put in the time to prepare. Atkins High School, my high school, had great teachers. The men and women there showed us what it meant to be a teacher. I often think about Mr. Earl, Mrs. Scales and Coach Green and the influence they had on my life and the lives of others.

If you went to Atkins High School, Carver High School, Paisley High School, or Anderson High School, you have similar stories. The teachers in those schools charted a pathway of success for us and we simply followed the blueprint. They gave us “book learning,” but they also taught us how to become good people. They talked with us about goals and how to achieve them. 

Back in the day, those teachers gave us hope and encouragement each day. Our parents always sided with our teachers. Why? Because they trusted them and saw the positive results they were making in our lives. Parents and teachers had the same goal and that was to make us successful.

Reports indicate in 2017 there were 3.2 million teachers. They share many of the same attributes that our teachers had. Our children and grandchildren are benefitting from their instruction and guidance.

Yet there are too many teachers who carry the title, however they don’t want it. They became teachers for the wrong reasons, such as student loan forgiveness and not being able to find another job. As a result, it shows in their performance. Our young people are languishing in classrooms where teachers don’t want to be. Things like discipline and instruction don’t matter.

Nomadic teachers come to school thinking about something else and wanting to be somewhere else. Little learning and no caring occur on a regular basis. Interactions with parents are never good because the blame game is always in play. Teachers blame parents and parents blame teachers. In the meantime, children are suffering educationally.

Recently, a video was taken at a New Orleans charter school showing a teacher putting her foot on a student’s backside in order to wake them. I was speechless and dismayed. Reports say this has happened before with the same teacher. Has anything been done to reprimand this teacher? That’s a good question. 

Give our students great teachers because they deserve them.

James B. Ewers Jr., Ed.D., is a former tennis champion at Atkins High School and played college tennis at Johnson C. Smith University where he was all-conference for four years. He is a retired college administrator and can be reached at

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