musings on…teachers

In Education, Pedagogy on Saturday, 22 September 2012 at 07:09

in response to a FABULOUS post by gpicone…please go read it!  such fabulous points! http://ipledgeafallegiance.wordpress.com/2012/09/21/teachers-and-tenure/#respond

i wanted to post my response here as it is a subject i have wanted to talk about in relation to what i see as a non-teaching public school employee.


EXCELLENT points and fabulous way to get them across.  i am in georgia where we are a “right-to-work” state and have no unions and we still have a whole mess of problems.  so, those who say it is the fault of the teachers’ unions that cause all the ills in education can come to a non-union state and see the EXACT same issues.  ironically, in my early years of working in the schools (probably about 9 or so years ago) a kid put “something” in a teacher’s coffee.  i don’t recall what he put in there (i believe it was some sort of chemical…definitely poisonous, charges were filed by the teacher, not the school or the system).  the particulars escape me now.  things i have seen in the schools: the kid who ruined a principal’s eyesight in one eye permanently by flashing a laser directly into his eye, my dear friend who had a kid take photos of her when she was helping another student-did i mention that she was wearing a past-the-knee length skirt and while she was standing with another student helping him work a problem and this kid was taking photos of her UNDER HER SKIRT (?!?!), teachers who receive written or verbal death threats (there have been many of those), or the kid who threw a teacher into a wall, or the 19 year old freshman who molested a 15 year-old girl with serious intellectual disabilities IN FRONT OF OTHER STUDENTS IN THE CAFETERIA (there was supervision, but the cafeteria is huge and a few adults can’t be everywhere)…i will spare the gory details as to what he made her do.  these are just examples that i can readily think of, there are so very many, unfortunately.  and, i am in a very “wealthy” area (i.e. these are generally kids from families with a high SES).  the stories get more violent as SES is decreased or in the less wealthy areas.  i am NOT a teacher (i don’t think i could ever do that job effectively and i admire teachers who teach for the love of teaching and believe THEY are the true heroes), but do work in the public schools (i am a school psychologist). teaching appears to have become about babysitting, behavior management, raising test scores however you can (see: atlanta public schools cheating scandal for one example http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local/investigation-into-aps-cheating-finds-unethical-be/nQJHG/), trying to make sure you don’t get attacked or sued, etc.  i am not sure how teachers are able to really teach (i am talking about teaching via true dialectic and experiential methods), and if they do, how they do it with the over-time demands (being right-to-work, it says in our contracts that we are to work the 8 hour school day “AND any other hours/days you are asked by your principal or direct supervisor” WITHOUT compensation.  we are not allowed to take a lunch break unless we are DIRECTLY supervising kids (i.e. eating with the kids) or we must make up whatever time we take to eat.  even eating and say, writing a report or entering in grades is not considered “direct supervision” and that time must be made up that day (to all those that complain that teachers get so much time off…what if you were told you could not take a lunch break without having to “make up” the time?  no “business lunches.”  heck, my teachers can’t even go to the bathroom when they have to because they can’t leave the kids or it is considered “abandonment of duties.”  i don’t think that happens in the corporate world).  one of the reasons i don’t eat until i am off work-it’s just too much hassle.  i think people really need to realize we don’t have these cush government jobs…especially those states in which there are no unions to attempt to at least get fair compensation (i.e. yes, we will work those extra hours like open house or such, but let us get some sort of compensation.  on open house evenings, my teachers come in at regular time in the morning and must stay until 8 or 9 at night for the open house…that’s a long day and it is required or you lose your job).

as far as compensation, and i can only speak for myself in regard to this. since i started working in the public schools 11 years ago, my salary has DROPPED by about $14,000.  i am making LESS now than when i signed my first contract 11 years ago!  not to mention that higher degree that i worked so hard for…our “degree credit” (really about $3000 a year) was cut in half for anyone that does not work in the classroom.  that, along with decreasing my work days from 205 to 190,  furloughs, increase in cost of benefits, etc. have all contributed to the huge decrease in pay.  what other job is like that where, in addition to not receiving any added monies, i.e. a raise of any kid, in 6 years and your salary DECREASES each year?  and, did i mention that our department was cut by 25% a few years ago, but more schools and responsibilities were added on (in essence, we are now responsible for doing 125%…i know…try and figure out how that works). yet, i can honestly say i don’t do this for the money and nothing is better than the feeling i get when i have really helped a student and/or their family and made a connection.  my soul is fed by “my kids” but it does get crushed each time i get a ‘message’ from the higher ups that i am nothing more than just another employee/number and easily replaceable or that that higher degree you got to make yourself more effective at your job just doesn’t mean anything (i.e. why further your skill set and knowledge base when all you get from it is mounting student debt and the message that higher education is not important?  i.e. loss of degree credit).  it’s just…sad.  kids are the future yet we treat those that help to mold them into who they are going to be awfully and with little respect.  instead, it sometimes feels like glorified babysitting.

i would challenge anyone who thinks teachers make too much money (laughable), have too much time off (not when you add all the extra hours from taking work home and various after school hours mandatory functions), or thinks teachers have total have job security via tenure thus allowing teachers to not teach and not be held accountable (in my state, the KIDS comments and impressions are now part of a teacher’s evaluation…thus, a student who is angry with a teacher for failing/disciplining/assigning homework/etc. is going to be part of what determines if a teacher keeps their job or not (not to mention that that teacher BETTER show an improvement in academic achievement based on standardized testing).  we all know kids can be reactionary and, if angry or they just don’t like someone, will not hesitate to rate that teacher as “unfit” and probably not rate them accurately nor objectively.  please see http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/georgia-professors-blast-teacher-evaluation-system/2012/07/09/gJQAFhSbZW_blog.html for a very salient case made regarding teacher evaluations in georgia.

i could go on (and on and on) but there’s no point.  many people will believe what they want to believe, even when shown data to the contrary.  i just wish those who thought teaching was “cake” would go try it for even a day and have to competently fulfill all duties (endless meetings, data collection (RTI), accommodations and modifications, individualized and differentiated instruction, paperwork, keeping class blogs updated, grading homework and classwork, administering the many assessments that are required, thus eating into instruction time BUT being expected to cover ALL material in the curriculum so that progress (i.e. higher scores) can be quantified, the list goes on). whoever thinks all teachers do is stand up in front of a class and actually teach is sorely misled.  that’s why i TRULY believe, as jonathan kozol says:  “Teachers are my heroes; they are the most courageous people in this country.”  we need to start treating them as such instead of bashing the profession. for example, just because you have a physician who is negligent, do you then go and bash ALL physicians based on one or two bad examples?  no.  while the unscrupulous teachers get the press, there are ordinary heroes in our classrooms everyday.  those who teach for the love of teaching and for the love of kids.  there are many more of those than bad ones…you just don’t hear about them.  while we revere physicians for being able to heal, why don’t we share some of that same reverence for teachers?  THEY are the ones who spend 8 hours a day, approximately 180 days a year, preparing YOUR children for the future (often, more cumulative time than parents spend with their own children).  maybe not performing a life-saving surgery, but helping to prepare these kids for the future.  THEY should be our heroes and celebrities.  and, unlike celebrity, they are CERTAINLY not in it for the money or accolades…

just my opinion…

  1. Thanks for your support and for this post. I haven’t written about it yet but in my final year I was sent to work in what was basically a prison compound for students that the district no longer wanted to pay to have sent to outside programs where they might receive help for their emotional and behavioral problems. 2 teachers were set on fire (their hair lit with lighters) and both were fired (pun intended? How could it not be!) for being flammable I suppose! And with our big fat popular governor of NJ (ironic that a man who indulges himself to his own detriment should be the leader of austerity for everyone else and no one notices) bad mouthing us and cutting our benefits I had no choice but to leave after 33 years in teaching. I didn’t want to go but…
    Anyway, thanks again!

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