Sunday, July 13, 2014

Teaching Truths

 Teaching is not for the fainthearted.

                I guess I’ve finally achieved it. I’m important enough for the local paper to publish my salary, along with those of my colleagues. On what must have been a slow news week, our local heralder of the news made a decision to show people of my region just what teachers and administrators make, including benefits.
                Don’t get me wrong. I don’t actually mind people knowing what I make. After 24 years of teaching, I make less than most professionals. Far less. Yet I think teachers put up with a lot more than the regular Joe realizes. 
                Teachers are subject to microscopic inquiries on everything they do in the classroom or school. Students can disrespect teachers, swear at them, even grab them with minimal repercussions.  Students may push the boundaries, but most teachers I know continue to patiently encourage the wayward young people, working with them to become engaged in the lesson.
                Again, don’t get me wrong. I LOVE my job. That’s why I continue to work at it, putting in countless hours over the summer and after hours that aren’t reflected in my pay stub.  And not just me—countless others in my profession do the same.  This is one of the many things the public doesn’t realize or see. They don’t see us paying for lunch for a student or two (or five) who doesn’t  have lunch money. Or buying clothes for a student who doesn’t have much. Or giving students money to buy bus tickets. Or buying jackets for young people who wear hoodies in the winter as their only protection against the cold. Or adopting families at Christmas time to ensure the kids receive some gifts that special night. Or gathering a group of reluctant readers after school and reading through The Great Gatsby with them, page by page.
                Teaching is a tough profession and is not for the fainthearted. You must be thick-skinned to endure the scrutiny of the public.  Much like police officers, teachers make negative headlines. Students underperforming, students bullying, students doing poorly on standardized tests—all problems that stem from bad teachers. When was the last time you heard something good about the teaching profession in the news? Yeah, me too.
                So does the public, who viewed my salary, realize what teachers do with all that cash? The amount of money spent on continuing education credits so they can renew their licenses? The amount of money spent on supplements to the curriculum? The amount of money spent on conferences to enhance their teaching prowess? The amount of money spent on books, magazines, and other materials that enrich them as teachers? If that amount was averaged and subtracted from total salaries, would the public have a better understanding of how much teachers make?
                Teachers really and truly aren’t in this profession for the money.  But we do need to be compensated for our work. It gets tiresome being scrutinized every time teacher’s salaries are negotiated,  being criticized for wanting to earn more so we’re not listed as 46th in the nation for teacher’s salaries, and being accused of taking a “vacation” during the summer months when we aren’t paid.
                I may sound a little negative in this post, but it’s not meant to be. It’s meant to enlighten people about the state of teachers’ salaries, the amount of work educators do, and the love with which they toil. Teachers are good people who try hard to make a difference in the lives of young people by educating them, encouraging them, and expecting them to learn.
                So as a celebrity earner in my area, I welcome you to view my salary.  And by the way, if you’ve read and understand this blog post, thank a teacher for helping you learn how to do so.

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