16 October 2007

for the teachers

So today I'm getting my knickers in a twist over people who denigrate teachers. If you're one of the ones who think teachers have a cushy, easy job, don't work full time, loll around while rolling in big big bucks - you are WRONG.

I think it's actually hideously unfortunate that teachers' salaries are made public, and are in any way hinged to voters. Voters are cheap as all hell. They don't want to pay for ANYTHING.

That said: I am the child of public school teachers. We NEVER rolled in dough. we were perfectly comfortable, but there weren't a lot of extras in my house. my mom bought our back-to-school clothes at Kmart and Sears. sometimes JCPenney's. she worked only part-time, so my dad was the primary breadwinner. both of my parents hold Master's degrees in education and/or their subject area.

Now, I teach myself, in college. I'm still a novice, as a grad student, but I cannot believe the amount of time teaching takes. Grading - it takes forever. And I only have 20-40 papers at a time! The time you're actually in the classroom is the least of it. Students contact me all the time. I have responsibilities to my department and university. I spend hours and hours prepping for class - reading the weekly text, reading additional critical or historical texts, doing my own close reading, preparing questions, making connections, planning on how to run the class. I'd guess, counting office hours and time in class, I spend 15-20 hours a week on my class. and i currently only teach ONE course.

My dad taught for 35 years, in a middle school (35 years of 12-and13-year olds, imagine!). He was at school daily from about 7:15 to after 4:00. He'd come home with a case full of papers, or lesson planning material. He participated in extracurriculars, for awhile. He planned field trips for his students. He spoke to other teachers and parents on the phone. He worked HARD all through the school year.
Yep - he got a week or so off at Christmas and again at easter. I didn't realize until I was in high school that that wasn't standard practice for all jobs. And I honestly think it should be. Who in the HELL needs to work on Dec 23, 24 and 26th? No one. it isn't my, or teachers' fault that the American "work ethic" is so backwards.

Now: summers off. You're damn straight he got summers off. He didn't have a second job. Instead, I have memories of him watching hours of C-span, and reading history books (he taught history). I have REALLY spectacularly clear memories of being dragged around to museums (not bad) and battlefields (horrid). we visited historic sites. He collected materials to use in class.
it isn't non-stop work, of course. He mowed the lawn and lounged around, too. But he didn't make big money. After 35 years of spending 8 hours a day with other people's children, he made maybe $70K a year. That's the TOP END of his pay. He got a nice retirement deal; the state offered incentives for older teachers to leave earlier (it's cheaper, in the end, to let older teachers go and to pay new teachers their low starting salary).

Many teachers in public schools hold advanced degrees. Those are costly, and I've yet to hear of a district that helps pay off those loans. And people with advanced degrees expect, and receive, more pay. Teachers are paid comfortably, for sure. But they are not paid lavishly. And we expect miracles from them, especially with elementary age kids. In my own short short time teaching I've done grad school and career advising to students; I've been the shoulder to cry on when a female student had an abortion; and I hand-held another through angst over being gay. I don't get paid for any of that. But it goes with the territory.

You leave your children with these people, with teachers, every day for 16 years, and you begrudge every damn penny you pay in taxes. Your taxes pay teachers' salaries, but they also provide your kids with athletic programs, buses, computers, A/V supplies, a library, a cafeteria, textbooks, extras like music and art.

Most people who become teachers do it because they want to teach, not because they are lazy. There's a contingent for sure who do it because they think it's easy, and you get summers off. But how many doctors are there who are in it only for the money? or lawyers? There are bad and lazy workers in every field. Many of them make far more than any public school teacher ever will.

A good teacher is a prize to be cherished. Think of your own good teachers. Think of what they did for you. Then think of what they could have done for you, had they been better. We ought to be recruiting and compensating the absolute BEST people we can into the field, instead of beating down and bitching about the ones already doing the best they can.

Like I said: I've always stood up for teachers, and known it wasn't a cakewalk of a job. But once I started doing it myself, my respect increased exponentially. It's HARD to do this. I only have 40 students, in one class. On average, my dad had seven classes, total of160-180 students, a day.

be kind to your teachers. support them. vote in school budgets - the only people who ever get hurt by defeated budgets are the kids.

love teachers.


Ms. Place said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ms. Place said...

Sorry, that was me. I should have EDITED first. Here were my comments:

This needed to be said. Thank you. My ex is a teacher, and my in laws were teachers. All worked hard for very little monetary compensation. All cared deeply for their charges.

Bless your dad. I bet he influenced many a young mind to think and stretch and explore.

Marius said...

I couldn't agree more. My mother is an adjunct professor and she works very hard. She considers it an obligation to educate and challenge her students. I respect her and all teachers immensely.

You and I have a lot in common. I started teaching about a year and a half ago. I'm also a grad student, and you are right--teaching is NOT an easy job.

Mom2Zoey said...

Amen! ~A