And there you have it, friends. Another school year done. In some ways, it was fabulous. In others, I shall remember it as my annum horribilis.
Teaching public school in America is a bizarre profession in several ways.
- We are given the huge responsibility to prepare our future leaders, teachers and professionals — but custodians and garbage collectors make more money than many of us.
- It’s one of the few professions I know of (likely the only one) where you can have a masters degree and be working in your field, and still qualify for food stamps.
- We are expected to have high standards and hold our students to them, but when we do, many parents descend on us like harpies for picking on their child. (I don’t experience this because of the nature of my class, but “academic” teachers and coaches get it a lot.) Edit: that statement makes it look like I have no standards. That’s funny. Heh. I will rephrase to say that I don’t experience this much because I teach an elective and the kids know the expectations going in. Howzat.
- If I hear one more person talk about teachers “getting three months of paid vacation,” I am going to commit a felony. That is like saying that all mechanics are crooks, and all lawyers are ambulance chasers, and all accountants are embezzlers. Shut up already. My friggin’ kingdom for 3 months off. Ok, so teachers who teach on the agrarian calendar (summers off) do get more time, but when you consider the salary issue, you got nothin’.
On the other hand, there are also ways in which teachers are reaping a bitter harvest. Some other observations:
- As long as teachers are affiliated with organized labor, we’ll never be considered true professionals. I’ll go to the mat with anyone on that fact. And I’ll win.
- Over last 25 years or so, I’ve noticed a huge increase in teachers worrying about “The Minutes.” It’s all about doing the picayune math. We’ve become a profession of timeclock punchers; hourly workers. I was asked to stay after school for a meeting and it went 20 minutes past 3:15, so I am submitting a form to be paid for 20 minutes of comp time.
- At the school I taught at in Florida years ago, classroom teachers were paid to come to my concerts to hear their students sing. No lie.
I’ve often told the story of the days I worked at Ashland University in the early 1980s. My job as scheduling secretary had me centrally located in the student union, where there was a big lounge with sofas and comfy furniture. On many occasions, a group of Korean students would gather there and study. Once in awhile, the Korean professor on staff would walk through the lounge on his way to the snack bar. As soon as those students saw him, it was a mad rush: they put out their cigarettes, leapt to their feet, and bowed to him. It was an amazing sight.
One of the students later told me that in Korea, teachers are very highly respected and revered — and well paid. Heh. Imagine that.
Fink, just grateful to have a job