Today a teacher posted an article about the ways that teachers are perceived and some of the things that are said about teachers specifically in regards to the Education “reforms” that are happening in America. The writer, a teacher himself, brings up many valid points about how teachers are judged and treated differently than other professionals.
The fact that this and other responses to criticism of teachers, for example the popular and inspirational video by Taylor Mali about What Teachers Make, are even necessary baffles me. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a family of teachers. Not just any run of the mill teachers either, I grew up around hard working, dedicated teachers.
My mother in particular, showed me how hard it was to be a teacher. I saw how much work she did. I saw how much she cared about her students. I saw how much extra time she took to make sure that she was the best teacher she could be for her students by researching the newest teaching methods, keeping up to date on technology and constantly changing things up. I heard her say over and over that she “didn’t teach for the money, she taught for the kids.” And I strive to do the same thing as a teacher now.
I was under the delusion that everyone knew what I knew. I felt that since everyone went to school and was taught by these teachers who were passionate about their careers and worked so hard, that they all knew that teaching is not an easy job but a very worthy one. And yes, I’ve heard people say “Those that can, do, and those that can’t, teach” but I just always chalked that up to people talking about artists who couldn’t make it as artists or something which I suppose is a broad and unfair generalization as well.
The first time I started to hear and read people saying things about teacher salaries being too high, or that we have too much time off, I thought they were kidding. High salaries? Really? Who has these high salaries? I mean sure, we make a decent salary, certainly enough to make a good living, but so much of that money goes back into our classrooms, and as a profession, in comparison to other professions with as much education required, we don’t make that much. And the whole “having the whole summer off” thing… it is nice to have so much time in the summer. And it’s nice to have March Break and Christmas vacation. I won’t argue with that, but they’re very rarely true vacations. They’re often time to work on professional development, learning about new teaching methods, planning for changes in grade levels or subject, lesson planning, unit planning, all of that happens when we’re on “vacation”. And we can’t choose when to take our vacation. We get it at those times and at no other times. We can’t just decide we want to take a week off in April to go away with our families when the rates are lower. Or even for special occasions, we can’t just take days off. For my own wedding I took a day without pay so that I could get ready for our wedding. And in what other profession do you have to spend hours working on a lesson plan just to take a day off sick?
I’m not saying that these are things that should change, I’m saying that every job and every profession has its perks and draw-backs. Someone working an office job can go to work at 9 and leave at 5 and never take home any work but they don’t get their summers off. I go to work at 7:30, leave at 5 and often take work home with me, but my summers are my own time and I love my job. I would hate working in an office and teaching is something that I feel that true teachers are called to do, and maybe that’s why non-teachers don’t understand?