We Do More Than Teach

I’m sure you’re all sick of hearing about teachers lately. But I feel there is still more to be said. It’s been a very emotional month or two since we realized that Matt’s job could be in jeopardy.

That’s not supposed to happen to teachers with their Master’s Degree plus and over 10 years of experience. It certainly shouldn’t be happening to someone who works with troubled kids and truly loves it.

I was talking with a friend last week and trying to hold back tears as I talked about Matt and his job. I wasn’t able to hold back. The tears flow so easily these days. I was trying to explain that it’s so much more than losing a paycheck. Matt would work three jobs if he had to in order to make up the money; that’s not the point. The point is that we both went into teaching because we love kids and felt we could make a difference. We didn’t go into teaching because we love physical education and math; we went into teaching to make our students better people. That’s what makes me so very upset. With all this talk of teachers and how “great” we have it because we make a modest salary, pay astronomical union dues, pay quite a bit into the state retirement fund and pay monthly for our health care and get to laze around for three months out of the year, those that are trying to take it all away from us have forgotten the most important point—none of us went into it for the money. We went into to this profession to make children better members of society.

Matt teaches physical education to over 300 elementary students. Do you think that the most important concept he teaches them is how to dribble a basketball or how to jump rope? No way. He teaches them how to listen, how to follow directions, how to interact with others (students and adults) in a positive way, how to stay healthy, how to be confident and believe in yourself. Would you want to take that away from your kids? These kids who typically don’t have male role models get to spend time with an amazing man twice a week. They get to see how a “real” man acts. They get to see how to treat each other with respect. I’m sorry but you just can’t replace that. Especially in an elementary school dominated with women; it’s especially important for these kids to have a male role model. These kids don’t even get recess and now they’re trying to take away the sole physical activity they probably get in a day. How sad is that?

As for me, I don’t think the most important concepts I teach are Pythagorean Theorem or the Quadratic Formula. If my students learn math, to me, that’s a bonus. I’m trying not only to teach them to be a good student, but to be a good person. To be confident. To believe in themselves. Isn’t that ridiculously important? And shouldn’t that be worth, at the minimum, a modest salary and modest health benefits? That’s all we’re asking for. It doesn’t sound like much to me. The people who spend the most time with your children, and try to impart life lessons and wisdom in them along with the state standards, should be paid well. Where would any of us be without teachers?

As for those people who cite “bad” teachers…aren’t there bad doctors? Bad lawyers? Bad CEOs? Bad everything? Teachers aren’t an exclusive club where there are more bad than good. I can promise you that the “bad” teachers that THEY talk about are few and far between. And I can promise you that they probably started out really good teachers. But after years of getting more and more and more handed down on their shoulders, along with less respect and less pay, they probably threw in the towel. Those who haven’t taught have no idea how difficult it is. No idea. It’s the most rewarding job at times and the most degrading and difficult job at other times. I’m sure it’s hard to focus on the rewards after 20+ years of being beaten down.

Did you also know that Matt and I are both “unmarketable” for other districts? We have too much experience and too much education to be hired. Truly. If either of us tried to switch districts now, we couldn’t. There are actual “rules” that the schools have that those with so many years of experience can’t be hired. Because we cost too much. Have you ever heard of a profession that doesn’t want the most qualified person for the job?

Do you want to hear something really sad? Matt and I both have our Master’s Degree plus 6 hours of post-graduate work. We’re considered highly educated. Even if we both keep our same jobs for next year, and all of these Senate Bill 5 cuts go through, our kids will qualify for free and reduced lunch next year. Can you believe that? With two highly educated, employed full-time parents, our kids will technically be poverty-level kids. How do you think that feels? We’re trying our hardest to make these children the best people that they can be…and we’re working for peanuts. It’s just sad and I don’t understand it.

I had high hopes that this administration would be the “education” administration. That they would finally devote time, money and energy to figure out the unconstitutional school funding issue that plagues our country. That teachers would finally be revered and rewarded for their importance in our society. Instead? My husband, who adores his students and loves his job, will at the very least have a family that qualifies for poverty-level free and reduced lunch and barely gets by.

Sad, indeed.

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25 responses to “We Do More Than Teach

  1. wow! so well said tiffany. AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. That was very, very well said. I am sending this post to my husband to share with all the unions her represents. This hits home for me too. My mother was a public school teacher until the day she died. She worked hard and always brought so much work home. She went above and beyond and never for the money. It was always for the kids. Let me tell you how many students showed up at her funeral. It was amazing. Keep doing what you are doing. I am praying for Matt and his job and for your wonderful family!

  3. You are phenomenal. Olivia, Matthew, and Gabe plus hundreds of other kids are so lucky to have you.

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  5. This is heartbreaking. I am so sorry, Tiffany. As a fellow (former) teacher, I understand this situation too well.

    As for Matt–with the obesity epidemic in this country, I cannot believe that so many cuts are being made to physical education programs in schools. It defies rationality.

    ((you and your family))

  6. Very well said. it is very vicious how the government is turning on teachers. Let the people speak up and be heard.

  7. Unbelievable. It takes a special kind of person to teach. I know – I have a degree in secondary education but my student teaching experience scared me away. I don’t understand why highly educated people doing one of the most important jobs in the world are treated like dirt. Sad, very, very sad.

  8. Tiff- You were the BEST teacher I had in highschool. You have touched my life is so many positive ways. Honestly, I don’t think I would have made it through HS without you. Im pretty sure I ate lunch in your classroom for 4 years straight, and spent any and all free time during the school day ( and before and after school) in your classroom. My life is richer because of you! xo- Sarah

  9. Oh! Not to mention. THE COUNTLESS HOURS OF TUTORING you devoted to me! Now, I have my bachelors degree and I am a nurse on a critical care unit. No a chance I could have made it this far without you. I always told people, you were my biggest cheerleader in HS. Your belief in me truly made a difference. You were always so positive, encouraging, and sincere. ā¤ ok… now im just getting sappy! lol

  10. I have been thinking a lot about you lately (and our whole education system as a country). It seriously just makes me mad and worry greatly about the future of our children in this country if we place so little value on education. Physical Education (as well as Art and Music) are so important for our children and I’m shocked that schools would be willing to get rid of these programs. When will Matt know for sure about his job next year? It just doesn’t make sense.

    By the way- you were my favorite teacher in high school even though I HATED math šŸ™‚

  11. Well said, Tiffany!
    If the people who made these comments were forced to live ONE year in our shoes, their opinions would completely change.

  12. I so agree. I am a teacher who works part time, and I work for pennies. And though I teach remedial readers, what’s more important to me than the reading itself is that I foster an environment that makes my kids (the lower achievers in our school) love school. Love learning. Love being there.

    And yeah, my job is probably going to be cut next fall.

  13. Teachers, all teachers, are doing the most important job in the world. I wish I had more power to sway the debate. Well educated teachers with years of experience deserve better then this. Much, much better.

  14. It’s unbelievable that our kids aren’t worth more as far as society is concerned. It doesn’t seem possible that a teacher can be ‘over-qualified’ to teach our kids. You said this all so well. I just wish those who made the decisions could read what you’ve written.

    I’m so sorry your family is going through this.

  15. Right on! Right. On. (And… write on, too!!!)

    I cannot believe you have similar issues we do over here in our province. And, you’d think that in the land of opportunity, there would actually be… opportunities.

    I love what you said about “bad” teachers once being really good teachers. I feel like in 13 years, that’s exactly what’s happened to me! I gave and gave and gave until all of my energy was taken. In fact, it may still be found in the walls and hallways of the schools I worked in. But, when we are hitting our heads against a brick wall, because we care… about OTHER PEOPLE’s KIDS… it’s so disheartening to have society put us down so. And to not have the government back us up… it’s just a punch in the gut. Tell me how many people can get up and teach with the same enthusiasm they naively came into the profession with after such a blow. Just show me one.

  16. I followed a link over from Bad Mommy Moments…and had to take a moment to comment.

    I REVERE teachers. They do what I could never do in a million years – no matter how much I was paid. The education system is in shambles – and yet, still there are people like you and your husband – who get up and go to work every day to do what they can to make children, MY CHILD, a functioning member of society.

    The local, state and federal governments should be ashamed. Period. The treatment of teachers is unspeakable.

  17. What a spectacular post. My heart breaks for you and your family, for all of the other teachers, and for our kids, too. This sucks.

  18. Beautifully put. It’s disgusting the things that are happening not only here, but all over the country. And, while teachers and other public employees are going to suffer, the real downfall is how the children and all other individuals served will suffer. It breaks my heart to see what’s happening.

  19. Tiffany, I am so sorry! That blows a big stinker indeed! To have your passion and financial well being of your family both hit is a hard, hard place to be.

  20. You made some great points. I share this same passion with you. I had some amazing teachers and I know with my learning disabilities many people would throw in the towel with frustration. How can it change? What needs to happen? Thank you for sharing this post!

  21. I came over from Badmommymoments. I’m so sorry that you’re in this situation. It’s truly upsetting the way teachers are treated in our country. I want to just smack people when they say teachers “just teach” or “They make too much money.” What crap. I hope things turn around soon.

  22. I, too, work in education. I have my degree in education and I’m currently working as a sign-language interpreter at a local charter school. It is really discouraging to hear all of the crap teachers are accused of, when I see the HARD work they put in every day. I love working with the kids at school, but I no longer want my own classroom because of all of the weight thrown on teachers’ shoulders by people who have no idea what they go through on a daily basis. I’m generally a fiscal conservative, but the way teachers are being pounded just isn’t right. There has to be some way to balance the need to be accountable for public funds with the realities of what it actually takes to teach in today’s society. When kids come to school hungry and tired and abused, how are teachers supposed to be effective? I don’t know the answers, but there has to be a balance somewhere. God bless, and keep your chin up. You are an amazingly strong woman.

  23. Beautifully rendered Tiffany. It’s a sad state of affairs indeed. There is a plan in many Arizona districts to cut funding for teachers (especially in Kindergarten programs). I don’t understand it. Education is the most important tool – how are teachers able to do it effectively without being compensated for it? Sending you hugs.

  24. I don’t understand it either Tiff. So sad. Im am completely frustrated. Joel and I sometimes ask ourselves the same thing, why?!!! when we work so hard?!! Sending you my prayers and love. I still wanna talk with you very soon. Call me! I feel like I may have some light in a lot of what you talk about (like in your other post about feeling so small, like all you wanna do is make a difference) but when you’re ready. Actually, no it’s most important you call me very soon. hugss…..

  25. Pingback: Good News | Elastamom's Excerpts

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