Writing my way through the school year!

I love this speech! I wonder how many politicians heard or read it?

I  flew overnight from Vancouver to be with you today. I landed in New York a few hours ago and caught a flight down here because I needed to tell you all in person that I think you’re awesome.

I was raised by a teacher. My mother is a professor of early childhood education. And from the time I went to kindergarten through my senior year in high school, I went to public schools. I wouldn’t trade that education and experience for anything.

I had incredible teachers. As I look at my life today, the things I value most about myself — my imagination, my love of acting, my passion for writing, my love of learning, my curiosity — all come from how I was parented and taught.

And none of these qualities that I’ve just mentioned — none of these qualities that I prize so deeply, that have brought me so much joy, that have brought me so much professional success — none of these qualities that make me who I am … can be tested.

I said before that I had incredible teachers. And that’s true. But it’s more than that. My teachers were EMPOWERED to teach me. Their time wasn’t taken up with a bunch of test prep — this silly drill and kill nonsense that any serious person knows doesn’t promote real learning. No, my teachers were free to approach me and every other kid in that classroom like an individual puzzle. They took so much care in figuring out who we were and how to best make the lessons resonate with each of us. They were empowered to unlock our potential. They were allowed to be teachers.

Now don’t get me wrong. I did have a brush with standardized tests at one point. I remember because my mom went to the principal’s office and said, ‘My kid ain’t taking that. It’s stupid, it won’t tell you anything and it’ll just make him nervous.’ That was in the ’70s when you could talk like that.

I shudder to think that these tests are being used today to control where funding goes.

I don’t know where I would be today if my teachers’ job security was based on how I performed on some standardized test. If their very survival as teachers was based on whether I actually fell in love with the process of learning but rather if I could fill in the right bubble on a test. If they had to spend most of their time desperately drilling us and less time encouraging creativity and original ideas; less time knowing who we were, seeing our strengths and helping us realize our talents.

I honestly don’t know where I’d be today if that was the type of education I had. I sure as hell wouldn’t be here. I do know that.

This has been a horrible decade for teachers. I can’t imagine how demoralized you must feel. But I came here today to deliver an important message to you: As I get older, I appreciate more and more the teachers that I had growing up. And I’m not alone. There are millions of people just like me.

So the next time you’re feeling down, or exhausted, or unappreciated, or at the end of your rope; the next time you turn on the TV and see yourself called “overpaid;” the next time you encounter some simple-minded, punitive policy that’s been driven into your life by some corporate reformer who has literally never taught anyone anything. … Please know that there are millions of us behind you. You have an army of regular people standing right behind you, and our appreciation for what you do is so deeply felt. We love you, we thank you and we will always have your back.

Comments on: "Matt Damon’s Speech to Teachers at SOS Rally" (26)

  1. […] students themselves feel like total failures when they are highly successful in areas that are not subject to standardization, which, by the […]

  2. Teachers Liberation Front said:

    It’s great to see someone as well known and influential as Damon get up and speak for teachers.

    We’re typically pushed around by the wealthy corporate fascists who think that the solution to the worlds problems is to treat it like a business model problem.

    Please make sure all of your colleagues get this information on Matt’s video, send them the link, and make sure your own professional union paper or journal put’s the info in as well to get the word out too.

    “Those who do not move, do not notice their chains.”
    Rosa Luxemburg

  3. […] students themselves feel like total failures when they are highly successful in areas that are not subject to standardization, which, by the […]

  4. Judith Rehermann said:

    Teaching is a “calling” for me; inspired by my Grandmother who taught and countless other teahers who taught me to love learning. I never expected my 7 years of college would make me wealthy, but neither did I expext after 31 years to be afraid I will not be able to afford my health care and a simple lifestyle in retirement. It is very challenging to inspire students and encourage a love for lifelong learning in the current environment. Schools are expected to provide so many services that have nothing to do with education. I sometimes marvel that we accomplish what we do and am certainly not surprised that so many precious young people miss the opportunity to be inspired in the current drill and test environment. The most effective change we could make as a society is to return the focus of schools to education and inspiration.

    • Alice Glover said:

      Judith~I agree with you 100%! I have taught 31 1/2 years and never did I invision that health care costs would have such an impact on myself and fellow teachers. While I am thankful for the salary increases throughout the years, I am concerned about the health care increases every year. If I retire at this time, the insurance cost to cover myself and my husband will be close to $1300. month! When this is mentioned to people in the public sector (and some in education outside of Arkansas), I always get a look of disbelief! I am open to change in the classroom, but it is hard to accept that drill and test is the answer. There are life skills that must be taught for our students to grow to be productive and successful in society. Not all of these skills are can be tested though.
      It is refreshing to hear encouragement from people outside of eduction. Now if only those who are responsible for policy will listen to these comments. I hope 2011-2012 is a rewarding school year for you.

  5. Go Matt! Thank you for caring and speaking up. The teaching profession will soon be lost! There are not enough persons going into education in our colleges and universities.

    What will happen to our children of the future. Computers and on-line internet services will NEVER take the place of a caring, loving teacher. I am glad that I teach and can make a difference in the lives of children. I serve on a school board and I can create policies and change them for the betterment of the children and their community in which they live. I say to Congress and our State legislators: please remember to “Keep the Main thing the Main thing!” Our children-the Bottom Line.
    With warmest regards,

    “Kat” Gordon
    Librarian-Osceola County Schools, Kissimmee, Florida
    School Board Member-Orange County, Florida
    District #5

  6. Mary Ann said:

    We never needed standardized tests because our teachers made sure we learned, and learned a heck of a lot more than is expected nowadays.

    • First of all, I’m not sure what time period you are referring to as when “we” supposedly didn’t need standardized tests, but for many years, they were used and used correctly: as a piece of a total puzzle. They were never intended to be the end all and be all that they are now. Secondly (and most importantly), you arrived at this conclusion based on what evidence? I know sentiments like that are fun to SAY, but what FACTS (not anecdotes or perceptions based memories of when you were A CHILD that may or may not be accurate) are you using to justiy a statement like that? The reality is that much more is expected from teachers and schools now. Often times these students are sent to school ill-prepared and are not supported properly at home (in poorer communities), or at the other end of the spectrum, see their pedgogical and disciplinary efforts undermined by overly litigious parents (in more “affluent” communities). The supposed “data” that indicts our teachers and schools is often compared to countries or private systems that don’t test (or even in some cases teach) ALL students like our public schools do.

      These are just a few examples of how the cards are often stacked against us more now, and why it’s unfair and in most cases inaccurate to subscribe to the simple-minded “all teachers suck now” theory.
      Are there problems?
      Can and should we continually try to adapt and do better?
      Of course.

      I’m just imploring you to not believe the hype put out there that the teachers of yesteryear were replaced by a bunch of lazy morons who don’t care about anything other than getting the summer “off” (yeah right) and our “fat” pensions (ha!). The truth is out there, but it requires you to do some homework, pay attention, not assume the easiest answer to arrive it is necessarily the correct one, and most of all- THINK!

      These good teachers from days of yore you refer to probably worked very hard to try to teach you to do those very things. Honor them by doing so regarding the issue of our country’s schools in this day and age…

  7. Gwyn O'Connell said:

    I loved reading your speech. I appreciate your love of learning. I was fortunate to have parents and grandparents who taught me to love learning. I love school and at 66 I am still in school learning. I graduated from my high school fifty years ago this coming summer. I am lucky to be still teaching at my high school that I graduated from. I love learning & collaboration, problem posing and problem solving, nurturing creativity, and interdisciplinary learning!
    I love learning and helping students on their own personal journey to reach their potential. Students are the future! They are the citizens of the future who will work to preserve the democracy we have and are trying to recover! Thank you very much for articulating your passion and voice so well!
    Gwyn O’Connell

  8. Matt, your speech brought tears to my eyes. Thank you! Policy makers today were not in my class – but you were. Making a difference is what it is all about. Most of the policy makers have never stepped foot in a classroom and should not be allowed to discuss or set policy on what they do not know or understand – yet they do and we give them that power.

    • Kathy Cooper said:

      Kathy Cooper

      I loved hearing this speech. We need more highly visible people like you, Matt, to stand up for us teachers. I have taught music for 32 years and have not ever really felt threatened I would lose my job, but I do now. I remember taking standardized testing, but not to the extent of today. I pray for the day when we can cut our ties and teach like all of my teachers got to back in the 60’s and 70’s. I know I learned so much more than these kids today…about everything, not just what was on some useless test!

      El. music teacher
      Checotah Ok


      • I started teaching in public school in 1984, and I really can’t remember if testing existed. However, I remember a time when I chose how I would teach a lesson, my judgment was valued. Now, I feel like a robot, do this, do that, and most of all, make sure they pass the test! I love incorporating projects into my teaching, and now that i have a new administrator, I am so afraid that is going to be taken away. So far, she says I can continue, “as long as it aligns with the curriculum”, we’ll see. Thanks to all for your heartfelt comments!

      • Unfortunately Kathy, with the emphasis on Reading and Math, nothing else matters. That’s a shame, because sometimes that’s all some of these kids have. Praying you, and all the others like you, keep their job!

  9. Lorri Cahill said:

    Matt Damon’s speech was just what I needed before the school year begins. Since the NCLB legislation was enacted, I have hung a cookie cutter outside my classroom door, with a line of tape running through it. It’s my way of saying “no one-size learning in my room!” Let’s spread that type of display across the country as wonderfully influential people such as Matt speak so eloquently on our behalf.

  10. Nancy Sweeney said:

    I have been a public school teacher for 36 years and until recently I have LOVED EVERY moment! I have taught in an All Day Kindergarten class for the last 10 years and the standarized testing has made it down to the youngest in our schools! No longer is a student’s learning style embraced, or the wonderful growth that happens with intellect , creativity,independence, problem solving skills and learning how to get along with others, cherished. Now we are asked what reading level the child is on and did they complete all the Districts’ Benchmarks! If not they are at risk for failure. This is in an affluent, well educated Town where most children would fly through the developmental appropriate Benchmarks ,not the ones superimposed on them by the State and then the Town. This is so sad and it is becoming increasingly difficult for me to continue both my developmentally appropriate curriculum and the demands of the District.
    I retired in June and hope to work to help my fellow educators outside the system as the “powers that be” do not seem to be interested in the experiential knowledge of its educators! Go NEA!

  11. Penny Reese said:

    Thank you, Matt, for your inspirational words! As a teacher who has a passion for connecting, educating and encouraging my students to follow their dreams…..you “get it!”
    I am sure that I speak for many, many educators when I say that we appreciate your recognition and support.

    Penny Reese

    • I couldn’t sleep last night, so I wandered the web. I didn’t realize that so many people (non-educators) were vilifying Matt Damon for what he said! It was an eye-opener, to say the least!

  12. This is an amazing speech! And to see Matt Damon introduced by his own mom, a teacher, WOW – I loved it!

    My mom is a teacher, and she’s living all this. I hope someday to be able to stand beside her and support her and her colleagues. Teachers are vital to our future!!!

    Love it! Love it! Love it!

    I support you all!

    Miguel Angel

  13. Doris Riley said:

    Praise God! Somebody is willing to tell the TRUTH!

  14. Thank you Matt damon!

  15. Not only good looking but extremely intelligent. He’s got it. Now if only the rest of the world would listen, testing doesn’t tell us about what a child has learned, it tells us about how they take a test.

  16. Paula Lane-Major said:

    I appreciate Matt Damon’s kind words. His praise and gratitude are encouraging. I am glad to hear someone of influence tell the public that such treatment of teachers is demoralizing, because it is. Demoralized educators often turn on and attack colleagues. The abused and long suffering sometimes become abusers and find power in making others suffer. For the teachers still trying to do a good job in the face of public and political adversity, collegial strife makes a difficult job misery. When educators succumb to attacking one another, they unwittingly do the dirty work of those who seek to undermine and dismantle the public school system. It’s great to see some educator solidarity at a national rally aimed at saving our schools. Some work still needs to be done on helping teachers deal with public adversity while remaining supportive to colleagues.

  17. Will C. van den Hoonaard, PhD, Canada said:

    What a timely speech! Our government (New Brunswick, Canada) is closing down rural school and sees a great value in warehousing our children. Our own rural school in Douglas (New Brunswick) was the oldest school in Canada (est., 1873) and had a wonderful program for its ca 100 children, including the Virtues Program. And then, after only 86 days of so-called community “consultation,” the Minister of Education notified the parents, on the last day of school before vacation, that the school was no more. A tremendous loss. Rural areas are being bullied.

  18. […] Diary of a public school teacher) Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in Education, USA, video. […]

  19. Amen! Well said. (fellow teacher)

  20. I appreciate what Matt Damon has done. As a teacher credentialed in 1999, I have seen a change in public education in the past decade. Testing should be a piece of the educational puzzle, but it has become increasingly the only piece that matters. I feel it is detrimental to students to be a “number” on a test. There are so many students that don’t test well in the “standardized” format, but could excel if given a different way to show what they have learned. Students learn in different ways and it is sad, in my opinion, that they are assessed mainly in a fill in the bubble way.
    Thank you, Matt Damon, for supporting creativity and a life long love of learning in the classroom! I hope that it will return to the classroom one day.

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