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Monday, October 17, 2011

Teachers are the "Dangerfields" of society

“Must be nice to have Summers, holidays and spring break” “Oh, you have it so rough,” Most teachers hear that and more from people who have never so much as chaperoned a field trip. Most people don’t think they can be doctors or rocket scientists , but for some reason people think they can be teachers as if all it takes is showing up. Then at the same time think teachers should be miracle workers. Teachers should be able to take any child regardless of home environment, ability or a lack of resources and make them Ivey league material, that’s if they aren’t lazy teachers. Teachers have without a doubt become the Rodney Dangerfield’s of society. Teachers get no respect.

There was a time when it was the opposite. Teachers were revered and valued. In 2010, teachers have to scrape for supplies and are just as likely to be treated with disrespect by a parent as they are a student. “It’s not my babies fault they ______ (fill in the blank with whatever), parents will justify junior’s bad behavior. But it’s even worse than that as the whole profession is under attack by elements both in the government and society as well. These ‘leaders’ really have no idea what they are talking about, use manipulative and deceptive information through mass media, and obviously consider teachers as a lazy group, filling a role anybody could do.

So those in the Ivory Tower need to create a diversion, a need to fix society’s problems. These leaders kick up noise about an epidemic of bad teachers. Test scores are low, a significant amount of kids can’t read on grade level and kids are dropping out, get pregnant, doing drugs, skipping class, sleeping in school, etc.. And the blame is shifted to: teachers and the education unions. There is no mention of how parental involvement and personal responsibility factor into determining a students success. Meanwhile states all across the nation are slashing education budgets. Teachers are told to do more with less. Every school district has policies in place to fire bad teachers and the unions are there just to make sure those policies are followed.

Go ahead and admit it. At some point you probably thought to yourself, “Well if I wasn’t doing what I do now, I be a teacher to have summers and holidays off.” Maybe even more people have thought: ”How hard could it be? They’re just kids.” Teachers have it so much easier than those of us in the ‘real’ world of work.

Teachers every day in Jacksonville are cursed out, assaulted and have their wallet, car keys, or other possessions vandalized or stolen. I wonder how many people in office jobs can attest to having the same things happen?

Like many people in many professions teachers provide many of their own tools and supplies. Unlike many people in many professions, teachers have had to provide many others their tools and supplies, too. Teachers selflessly give to other people’s children: clothes, back packs, books, grocery store gift cards, hundreds of lunches, mountains of paper, folders and pens and pencils.

Teachers are paid for only work seven and a third hours a day. Most teachers however work several extra hours a day, into the evenings and on weekends too. Teachers sacrifice time with their friends and families to do so and they do it all for free. I would guess the average teacher works at least ten extra, ten free hours a week.

Teachers aren’t living in the lap of luxury either. Over the summer teachers are basically unemployed. Many teachers get second jobs during the year and over the summer. Most teachers I know live pay check to paycheck in fear of a smoking engine, a child’s illness or some other emergency that professionals in different fields would quickly just write off. People become teachers knowing they will never be rich; but is it too much to ask that they be able to pay their bills and that they don’t have to live in fear of even the most mundane happenings that life throws at them?

There’s another thing that people routinely forget too. Teachers are professionals. They need degrees and certifications and they must continually work on their craft, taking classes or workshops to be recertified. When do they do this? Well often it’s the evenings or during their supposed summers off.

The modern teacher also has very little control over their classroom. Initiative, innovation, and creativity have all been replaced with pacing guides, the test and standarized classrooms. Imagine going into art or music but you are only allowed to paint one picture or play one song. Teachers are all but told teach to the test, helping children learn how to think has been replaced by helping children learn how to pass a test. Furthermore falling behind or deviating from the curriculum to help their students understand is becoming more and more acceptable.

Being a teacher takes professional credentials, an enthusiasm to put yourself on the line to all different types of children and families and it takes a willingness to know you may never be able to provide for your children they way you want to, while at the same time providing for others. It’s not an easy job. People just can’t show up and do it. And for every bad one the talking heads point to there are hundreds of good ones.

Teachers all have one thing in common. They do what they do to make a difference in kid’s lives. Teachers believe in service and giving back to society and still do so, though lately teachers seemed to be more denigrated than appreciated. Teachers don’t ask for a lot, you can look at our pay checks and see that, so how about just a little respect, you might be surprised how far it gets you, your children and society.

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