Friday, August 3, 2012

An Insider Speaks From The Soapbox

Here's a little insight into what it's like to be a teacher. Because, like Tom Petty, I'm an insider. I haven't been burned by the fire, but I've been scorched. Belittled by the media. Portrayed as an imbecile or monster. Those who can't do, teach. Tell me you haven't heard that one.

The worst part about being a teacher is that you are not a real person. Oh, you might think you're a real person. But you're not. You're a small-town celebrity. An idol to some. A money-grubbing freeloader to others. You'd better be careful sitting up there on that pedestal, swinging your clay feet over the side. It doesn't take much to bring you down. A gnat's fart could do it in a nanosecond.

No, our lives are not all summer vacation, laying on the couch eating bonbons and watching The View while raking in money for doing absolutely nothing. (In case you didn't know, we are paid by the year. That money is spread out over twelve months. So even after you leave a school, your checks keep coming, because that summer money is for work you have already done).

Some people perceive us as overpaid babysitters. We would be rich if we were babysitters. Multiply the going rate of babysitting/daycare services, times the number of hours and students we not only supervise, but also teach, and you come up with a pretty penny. Depending on the year, I have between 100 and 150 students every day. I teach six fifty-minute periods, and have one planning period. That's 300 minutes of student time. Or five hours. I'll give you my passing-period hall-supervising minutes for free, along with the lunch, before-school, and after-school duties. According to the Babysitting Rates Calculator, a babysitter, with my years of experience, in my town, should be paid $9.50 per hour for one child for 5 hours per week. So...1 hour a day, times 100 students, times $9.50 per hour...equals NINE HUNDRED FIFTY DOLLARS A DAY! Or $171,000 per year. That is over three times what I earn, with my many years of experience and a master's degree.

That's another secret. Teachers aren't in this profession to get rich. Shh...don't spread it around, but most of us really enjoy what we do. We're not all Jack Torrances in The Shining, or Matthew Broderick's character and his buddy in Election, or Mr. Dobbins. You remember Mr. Dobbins, don't you? Tom Sawyer's teacher, with the special book? No, most of us are rule-abiders and child-mentors. Genuinely caring for your children, though not in a creepy, inappropriate kind of way, relishing their successes as they progress through our district. Which is not to say we are not sometimes annoyed by their actions.

For our loyalty in the raising of your child, sometimes in spite of the village, we are held to a standard so high that Mother Teresa herself would appear a lowly guttersnipe in comparison. We are expected to live our lives without typos, smoking, drinking, dating, gambling, chewing tobacco, attending R-rated movies, arguing, nose-picking, farting, going to the bathroom, Facebooking, gossiping, texting, eating non-cafeteria food, or taking offense to insults and physical assaults. Oh, and we are also expected to know everything about every subject, because if we dare answer a question with, "I don't know, I'll have to look that up," we are met with the reply of, "Huh. You're supposed to be the teacher, aren't you?"

While few people hear about it, we put our own money into classroom consumables, give our lunch to a student without, bring in outgrown clothes for the sartorially challenged, pay club dues for members lacking funds, buy overpriced fundraising items just because a kid has the guts to ask, shell out prom ticket money as an anonymous donor, and remain ever-vigilant lest an intruder or inclement weather threaten our charges. We really don't begrudge living the best years of our lives bound by these trappings of our profession.

But it would be nice to get a little respect sometimes.

Yeah. Everybody hustle out there and grab a seat on this money-spewing party train. It only takes four years of college. Loans are available.


knancy said...

Getting all stoked up for the coming year, aren't you? Best of luck for good classes.

Sioux said...

Yes, the favorite time of all teachers is approaching--the end of summer. No more bonbons for you. No more of "The View" for you.

I'm with knancy. I hope you have a good crop this year...

Chickadee said...

Obviously the people who look down on teachers do not remember their own school years or are cognizant of the crap they pulled (because I'll bet those complainers were little jerks in class). Those people need to spend a week with a teacher and revise their opinion.

Hillbilly Mom said...

Yes, I'm pumping myself up. I like to get the first two weeks out of the way, then I enjoy the routine. At least I don't have two new textbooks to adjust to this year.

I have been very lucky for the last two years. The best crop ever. But his year, I will have The Pony's class. Their reputation precedes them. We'll see what develops.

At one school, the principal made a kid's mom come in and sit by him ALL DAY. She had to go to every class. He was so embarrassed, he made a complete turnaround. Because he knew that she would come back another day, if needed.