Reality Check

March 26, 2010 at 11:23 am 1 comment

It’s news to nobody that education in general, and teachers in specific, are kind of getting screwed over nationwide. Your state is running low on funds? Hey, teachers are overpaid! Let’s cut their pay! (It’s like, someone comes in to the ER with blood gushing out of their leg, and the doctor puts a bandaid on their nose.)

My state is one of the real winners at this. It’s a very red state. One of their solutions for this year’s budget downfall is to cut all teacher salaries by 4%, and to freeze our gained-education salary increases. Last year they froze our gained-experience salary increase; they’re doing that again this year. I am beginning to think that I am going to teach my entire career at a first-year teacher salary – at which point, that entry-level HR job I left to become a teacher begins to look pretty good.

Anyway, our newspaper’s website is chock-full of self-righteous idiots who spend all their time writing poorly-spelled anti-teacher rants. I recently received an email referencing said rants and encouraging me to name my first-grade teacher as a rebuttal to the idea that teachers don’t matter. I did, and then kept writing. I’ve included what I wrote below.

You know, if people had to use their real names on these websites, we could track them down and force them to live the life of a teacher for even just two days. I think they’d be changing their tunes pretty quickly. Of course, I’m preaching to the choir here, but I’m at the pulpit, so here goes!

Don’t get me wrong. As a teacher, I know I have some amazing perks. Two weeks off for Christmas, anyone? I don’t, contrary to popular opinion, get 3-4 months off of work every year – but I do have about 2.5 months each summer with which to do my choice of a number of things. Usually, because of the requirements of keeping my job, that will be additional training. (Other professions do this as well, but because it’s not necessary for an engineer, for instance, to be at his desk every single day, they can go to training sessions and seminars throughout the year. As a teacher, it pretty much has to be when the kids aren’t in at school.) I get a ton of autonomy and rarely interact with a supervisor. My "office" is big enough for 36 people to work in. Best of all, I get to play – it’s part of my professional responsibilities to attend football games, act goofy at pep assemblies, and occasionally wear pajamas to work. Not much to complain about there.

That’s on one side of the scale. On the other? Being the one person in the world who notices or cares that your child has an eating disorder, is not getting enough sleep or food, has developed a drug habit, is hiding a reading deficiency, may have gotten his girlfriend pregnant, is gay, is miserable. Looking at your child – on my own time, because there isn’t time while "on the clock" – and all of his weaknesses, everything that isn’t working for him, and trying to figure out a way to help. Spending all of my "fun money" on things that I hope will be fun or helpful… for my students. Slogging through your child’s three-page literary analysis paper that doesn’t analyze literature because she didn’t read the book, or that contains beautiful analysis straight out of SparkNotes. Making the phone call home only to discover, the hard way, that the parents don’t care as long as the kid scrapes by and doesn’t have to repeat the class. Finding out the next week that your well-intentioned phone call earned your student a beating. Being a sounding board for a student who is fighting with her mom, or whose mom is dying in the hospital, or whose mom assaulted her and sent HER to the hospital – and not being able to say what you really think, because you don’t know what will get back to the parents, how much of it is true, how much of it is just a melodramatic teen’s sour grapes. Driving twenty miles out of the way to shop far enough from your school so that you won’t get caught buying beer or feminine hygeine products. Trying to convince your child that there is any value in reading something written by someone who died 500 years ago, or in remembering that sentences require both a subject and a verb. Trying to convince your child that there is value in working to earn As and Bs when they can do the bare minimum and still pass. Driving home thinking about what you did that day, spending the evening evaluating what the students did, and lying in bed at night thinking about what you’re doing the next day. Stripping yourself of all political, religious, and sexual identity because someone might get offended that you aren’t a living embodiment of a 1950s sitcom. Raising 150 to 200 of someone else’s teenagers, all at the same time.

This is the hardest, most heartbreaking, most exhausting job I’ve ever known. What keeps it in the balance? It’s also the most fun, the most rewarding, and the most life-affirming job I can imagine. There are many negative things with this job, but – on most days, it must be acknowledged – they add up to less than the sum of the positive elements. There are small victories that carry great weight. There are moments that are worth entire years.

I played with the math a little bit, and I think – even considering summer break, etc., and including all hours in which I am legitimately working – I make just about $10 an hour before taxes and insurance come out. Is it worth it? Yeah. Is it worth more? I think so… but this year, I guess I’ll take my 4% pay cut and my reneged-upon contractual pay adjustment for gaining education and experience, and just keep on keeping on. Your kids need me.

In the meantime, anyone want to pick up some beer for me? I’ll meet you in the parking lot with the money…

How is your state treating educators these days?



Flat Freshening Up for Spring

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Molly  |  March 31, 2010 at 7:43 am

    Cheers! and…. we’ll all keep on keeping on. Its what we do.


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The Bee’s Knees

This is the teaching journal of a student first-year second-year THIRD-YEAR (!!!) English teacher. I am writing this blog as a reflection for myself, a way to keep friends and family updated, and a sharing-ground between other educators online. I love comments!

I am striving to maintain anonymity on this blog so that I may more freely interact with my fellow edubloggers. If you know who I am, please help me protect my anonymity in your comments. I use pseudonyms or initials for everyone I write about to preserve their anonymity as well.

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