Friday, May 11, 2018

It's Teacher Appreciation Week, the One Week We Try Not to Knock Educators In the United States... At Least Not Too Hard.

This was originally a very long post I wrote over on my personal Facebook page, spurred on by a video shared by a friend of mine, shared here.

When I was a classroom teacher, there were several years I spent well over $1,000 for supplies for my classroom. Some of it would get permanent use in the room from year to year, but many times it was replacement items- paper, pens, pencils, markers, construction paper, books, printer paper, staplers, scissors, glue...and this was all for a high school English classroom!

I honestly get very angry when people say, "Well, it's a calling to teach" or "You knew what you were getting into," because, you know what...most of us were not called to go into teaching. I wasn't and I fought it tooth and nail until I realized that it would be the job I could get with my degree after being laid off from publishing. Most of us had no clue exactly how much we'd have to spend on our own classrooms. Most of us had no clue that, with every 2-3% raise, our insurance would go up 3-4%. Most of us didn't know that our retirement--that we pay into from our paychecks--would slowly be dwindled down and then we would be gouged with insurance premiums that were 5X what they were when we were in the classroom, with only 2/3 the income coming to us from our retirement (if that!).

The fact that right now, working in my district, our situation isn't "as bad" as a teacher in Oklahoma, Arizona, Kansas, or West Virginia, doesn't mean that we can't be angry when someone belittles our occupation. We are constantly spending our own money to improve our classrooms, either in supplies or earning more degrees or certifications. I spend many a summer attending workshops and reading up on the best practices for teaching my subject and my students. You can be envious of "all that time off" if you want to, but I will challenge you to spend 10 months with 240 17 year-olds, most of whom do not care whether they pass your class or not, but it is your job to make them care because whether you keep your job is determined by how well they do on a state-mandated test-- and by some miracle at the end of the year most of them do pass those tests and "prove" that you are doing your job (how many of you have your entire career hanging on how well a kid does on a test?).

I don't know. Sometimes I wonder if anyone who thinks teachers are whining, or thinks they should just quit if they are so unhappy (most aren't, they just would like a real, living wage for the job that they do that requires degrees and certifications and such. We feel the same for social workers or anyone else who is a professional, but still has to work at Starbucks after hours to make ends meet), or believes that vouchers are the answer to all our education ills (they aren't, especially for those who are poor because they still wouldn't have the funds to make up the difference in price for that charter or private school that may or may not exist in their area), or want to blame all our educational problems on immigrants (who, by the way pay taxes which fund schools, either directly or in-directly through rent or mortgages), have any clue about more than what it was like in their day in the classroom. School is very different, so much so I had to change my own beliefs about it from the time I graduated, way back in 1994, to my first year teaching in 2002-- less than 10 years. Of course, thanks to the internet and social media, everyone has an opinion and everyone thinks it's the best one, even if it is completely uninformed.