Walking into my much adored English classroom on Monday morning, I was filled with immediate excitement. Upon my desk? Two stacks of ungraded papers waiting for my marking and words of encouragement. I had made the executive decision that they could wait at work, while I spent some time enjoying my family. Three reports needing my observations for my student’s receiving special services. Test results showing the major improvements that my student’s have made in their Independent Reading Level throughout the year. My favorite tea-stained mug waiting to be cleansed for the next week of keeping me hydrated after doing five different voices in our class read aloud. Seventeen books returned by frantic students, begging to grab something new to read over the weekend because they had finished their novels during fifth period.
I could never begin to count the number of times when I’ve been asked about my profession, when I’ve been given the most ridiculous comments in response. Here are just a few of my all-time favorites:
“If I could have a M-F 8-3:30, I’d quit my job.”
“So, you want to be a Principal…right?”
“Oh, bless your heart.”
“But really, you get three months off in the summer.”
“You’re too smart to just be a teacher.”
“Yeah, because getting paid a salary to babysit is really hard.”
“It can’t be that hard, can it?”
“It’s a good thing your husband has an actual career, where he can make money to support you.”
“So like, you just let them read all day?”
“But you had such a great GPA in college, don’t you want to do something else?”
Before we get started on this whole “Teacher Appreciation” conversation we are about to have, I think we should define the word “appreciation”so we are all on the same page.
- the recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something.
- a full understanding of a situation.
- gradual increase in value.
Meaning number two I seem to take issue with, I suppose. So let’s just cover a full understanding of this situation.
If we wanted to be recognized, we would have been any number of other professions where performance directly correlates with the number of certificates hanging above our desk, instead of the hand drawn sketches crafted by those who occupy our classrooms.
The number of posts that I have seen today alone from people declaring the idea of Teacher Appreciation Day to be absolutely obtuse is mind-blowing.
“Why aren’t there Appreciation Days for every other profession? Teacher’s already have summers off, and now we are supposed to go out of our way to thank them for doing their jobs?” –Actual human being I unfriended from Facebook today. Seriously.
I’m also positive that those holding every “other profession” rapidly posting on the thread below the comment deserve more than their share of praising. I’m also quite sure that most of those professions are appreciated, compensated, and treated fairly in their workplaces.
Hell, I’ll go ahead and reckon they can probably urinate any time they please, without having to make immediate arrangements with their coworkers, or bust it down the hallway to beat the other hoards of teachers dying to relieve themselves as well.
Fair? Fairness means something entirely different to a teacher. Fairness doesn’t look black and white in our profession, trust me. I might have a class of twenty-nine students, while others have class sizes well below twenty at the same time–teaching the same thing. My coworker may have fifteen students reading below grade level on her roster, while I have six. I may be pulled to cover another teacher’s Math class, while others are able to utilize their planning periods. My students may be much more needy than the kids across the hall with their teacher. We aren’t in this for “fair”, trust me. We can’t run to the Principal every time something that we are needed to do isn’t “fair” across the board. I might break up a fight in the morning, and then cover another teacher’s bus duty that afternoon while others walk in and walk out with the bell ringing. That’s just another Monday.
Appreciation? Show me the teacher whose students, or parents immediately gratify them of their efforts. I’d love to meet he/she and shake their hand. Watch me as I revel in having some of their magical teaching powers absorb into my being. Teacher’s do not teach for the “thanks” or for the “praise”. The most rewarding part of our jobs is having those few students who take a minute to tell us how we have helped them, changed their day or week, or listened. When I receive an email from a parent saying that they used to have to force their child to read, and now they come home and crack a book instead of a coke in front of the DVR–I’m elated. Those are the appreciations we love. That’s what makes it worth it.
Compensation? To the person who was complaining openly that Chipotle, Green Turtle, and several other corporations had longer than usual waits due to their giving “hand outs” to teachers: Hahahahaha, you are so good at telling jokes. Places like these are getting the ball rolling on the conversations so needing to be had. Check my student loan to paycheck ratio, and then tell me I’m being overcompensated for having three months off in the summer. Allow me to “clock” my hours spent working, or losing sleep over the well-being of the children in my care and then we will really nickel and dime my profession. Please, introduce me to the person who fully understands they have little to no room for monetary movement in their career, and still goes 50k+ in debt to fulfill that dream. Personally, I drive an hour to work each way because the teachers in my home state don’t bring home enough monthly income to pay my student loans I took out to be a teacher in the first place. Yes, those two months in the summer where I spend my days planning, and recharging my Edutainer (Educator/Entertainer) batteries are really luxurious. Especially on the weeks where I get extra wild and partake in Professional Development courses (most often self-funded) to make my teaching more effective. The other definition of “Appreciation” means a rise in value. Take a moment, open your new tab in Google, and check the rise in teacher’s pay scales in the last thirty years. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Did I mention many of us continue to supply basic daily necessities for our students, out of our own “overpaid” salaries? Last month alone, $172.00 (of our family income) went into my classroom. Books for Reading Workshop my kids begged me to get into their hands. Materials needed to have lessons that aren’t just another conversation of “I didn’t do anything at school today”, but are “GUESS WHAT WE DID IN SCHOOL TODAY!” worthy.
So the next time you feel the need to down play my profession? I’ll tell you what we’d really like from the general public.
Swallow your jokes about finishing work at 3:30, and lying around all summer. We work more hours in a day, week, and year than most people just teaching. Add in the clubs we sponsor, teams we coach, and supervision assignments we do for “free” and we will outwork you every time.
Call us a babysitter, no more. I triple-dog-dare you to come “babysit” eighty adolescents going through puberty all at once, on an alternate schedule, when it’s 80 degrees outside, on a Friday. While you are “babysitting” I’ll make sure you have the to-do list of daily grading, assessment recording, curriculum alignment planning, and professional development goals you need to accomplish in your “down time.”
Stop telling us our schools are failing. You have no idea how this situation really works. Of course our school system is in crisis. We value just about everything more than we do our public education system. Ask anyone in America, and I’m sure they can give you a few choice words on the state of our countries educational system. We complain about legislature to cause a change to improve our schools because it could be much more “expensive”. We rank our schools from the outside, and fail to appreciate the uniqueness living inside of them. Without the resources to do more, be more, and grow more–how can we expect our schools to thrive?
They are really your “Job Security” issues, not ours.
Matt Damon forever became my hero when he spouted this at a reporter talking about “Job Security” and how teachers are overpaid and over-publicized.
“A teacher wants to teach. Why else would you take a shitty salary and really long hours and do that job unless you really love to do it?”
“I don’t know where I would be today if my teachers’ job security was based on how I performed on some standardized test . .. I sure as hell wouldn’t be here. I do know that,”
“The next time you turn on the TV and see yourself called ‘overpaid;’ the next time you encounter some simple-minded, punitive policy that’s been driven into your life by some corporate reformer who has literally never taught anyone anything. … Please know that there are millions of us behind you,”
Before we part today, I think that one of my favorite poets, Taylor Mali said it best with his poem, “What Teacher’s Make”.