Tuesday, April 8, 2014

State of the Schools

Our State seems to be turning its back on public education and teachers.

These are the things I'd like my legislators to know:

Yes, teachers need our salaries to pay our bills and support our families, but we don't teach for the check.

Yes, we have three months "off" in the summer, but we get paid for nine months of work, not 12.  (And we frequently spend quite a few of those days "off "preparing for next year's classes with curriculum work, conferences, and searching for new and better ways to teach.)

Yes, our salaries are public record.  (Feel free to look it up. And no, I probably don't want to compare my salary to yours-and especially not when I have been at this for 35 years.) I also pay the taxes that pay my salary.

Yes, we look for job security, but we don't teach for the tenure.

Yes, our bosses (Local Board of Education) are frequently the parents of students in our classes and in our activities.  (Are yours?)

Yes, we know that no one is more protective than a parent who feels their child is unhappy in some way. And we also know that our bosses (sometimes protective parents) get together at least once a month, where part of their evening (and their job) is spent discussing their children's teachers and coaches and the job that we are doing.

Yes, teachers have the job of sometimes making students unhappy or challenging them when they don't want to be challenged. Sometimes that, in turn, makes parents unhappy.

Yes, we might have to put a student in the chorus who really wanted a lead part.  (Or cut them from the team or sit them on the bench) Sometimes we disappoint students, AND that student might have a parent who is my boss, too.  And a protective parent.

Yes, we know administrators don't have tenure. We also know that they make about twice the amount of money most teachers do. We also know they have regular contact, discussion, sometimes camaraderie with our bosses; they build relationships with the bosses, and they have a chance to explain themselves on a regular basis. On the other hand, we know that teachers are discouraged from contacting our bosses, and even when we want/need to--we are only to do so by going through proper channels. To do otherwise could be considered insubordination.

And now no tenure means that teachers can be fired at any time or for any reason.

And guess what?

Today, I will go to school. I will work at nurturing relationships with students. I will hand back papers that are covered in ink, with grades which may or may not please. I will give a zero for plagiarism, lead a discussion on FDR's 1933 Inaugural Address, listen to students reciting "In Flanders Fields" and work at grading the next stack of papers. I will nag students to turn in late assignments or to come in to make up tests. I will give detentions for disrespect, confiscate hats and cell phones, and begin thinking about the curriculum for the new class that I may or may not be teaching next fall. I will meet with students who don't like their grade and comfort a student in tears because of a relationship going bad. I will return calls or emails to parents about grades or whatever else they might be worrying about, assuring them that everything will be fine or talking them through their worries.  And I will be trying to figure out exactly what standards we are to be teaching now.

And somewhat ironically, I will be hunting for videos that former students created for my Teaching Class, promoting teaching as a career.  Those videos will be used at a Career Pathway Fair, to encourage students to go into the Teaching Pathway and to choose the career of teaching.  

And the truth is...

I will put up with no tenure and little respect, pathetic wages, and long hours of lesson planning and paper grading because...

I love my students--past, present, and future.

That's it.

And I guess, at least for today, that is going to have to be enough.


Meagan née Chewning said...

Not much has changed with this sophomore in the years since I attended high school... Your teaching made a profound impact on my love of English and learning! Kansas legislation needs a bit more sophos than it has moros right now... My grandmother and grandfather were both teachers... My mother is a substitute and my mother-in-law and sister-in-law are both Kansas teachers. For a while, I thought that I would become a teacher. However, the state of the teaching field (painfully low pay, politics and drama, etc.) made me steer towards business instead. I still enjoy finding any opportunity to tutor others, whether it be friends, my poor husband, or a fellow coworker. It is due to what YOU and TEACHERS LIKE YOU have done to solidify and strengthen the foundation of love of learning, love of teaching, and love of caring for one another that has brought me to where I am now... and I say thank you Mrs. Erickson and all other teachers!!!

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Lovetheoutdoors said...

Well said. From a fellow teacher, thank you for your words. I couldn't have said it better myself. Bless you (and all of us) for a job well done. I believe in the children in my classroom, and I believe in the ones I will have tomorrow and next month and whatever I will have in the years to follow....

Puna said...

Oh gosh - thank you. One day I'll post about the impact the teachers at our schools have had on my children. It's life changing.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how I missed this when you first posted it. I absolutely agree with you 100%. If we did it for the money, tenure or rewards, we would have left the profession many years ago. Do I have your permission to share this post with the staff in my building? Cousin BJB