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.