Monday, January 10, 2011

Appreciate Me; or else.

A friend of mine works in a school district in sunny California, so overall I am jealous of her and her weather anyway. Additionally, she works for a district that is overtly thankful for her. What I mean by this is that they demonstrate their appreciation for her regularly and in ways that matter. I’m not talking about a button for her ID lanyard proclaiming her a “#1 Teacher”, I’m talking about a personal thank-you note from her immediate supervisor with intricate details about a job well done. Can you imagine the very idea of such recognition? Granted, she works is a very affluent district, so wealthy in fact that parents of her students bought her plane tickets as a Christmas gift this year…but thank you notes, they’re free.

It seems that as a profession, teachers in general are getting the proverbial beat-down. We can’t seem to ever do enough, and the very idea of summer vacation always seems to send us into the realm of useless professionals with too many days off. Which is a completely asinine assumption as the breaks offer both teacher and student the opportunity to digest information, and relax the mind. Too many people in the general public believe that teaching is a job that anyone can do, which again is so far from the truth its laughable. Teaching is a calling, in the course of my day I have the power to transform the minds of children. I can make their day either fabulous or miserable, I can offer guidance or crush dreams: imagine if just “anyone” were given that power.

I didn’t go into teaching to make millions, I’m still holding out that I will become rich and famous one day, but teaching isn’t what is going to get me there. Most of my colleagues make less than $40,000 a year, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t fabulous educators with a true passion for their students. There are clearly more profitable fields we could go into with our Masters level educations.

I am sick to death of worrying about the state budget and district cuts. I am tired of hearing how teachers are overpaid for their work. (By the way I work waaaay more than an 8 hour day. I spend well over 50 hours a week at school, and I handle the emotional and educational needs of more than 100 students every day). It saddens me to see that class sizes are growing out of control and that I cannot devote much time to each and every student. I am so worn out wondering where and if I will be working next year. It is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain a positive attitude about myself and my profession.

I became a teacher not for recognition, but because I loved kids and wanted to make a difference in their lives. This is one of the only professions where I have the unique opportunity to make a difference each and every day. That is not to say that I wouldn’t like nice pat on the back now and then.

Don Quimby reminds us to “keep on keeping on” over at in saying that “Teaching is a special calling. Teaching is a mission. Will teachers ever reach the point where they will be properly rewarded in their efforts to make a difference? I don't think so, but…so what? People don't become teachers because they know they will make a lot of money and live the lifestyle of the rich and famous. What matters most is that teachers have an opportunity to touch lives in ways that can make a difference in the futures of thousands of people.”

All in all I feel that a simple thank you would go a long way toward making the educational atmosphere a more tolerable place to be. If you happen to be my administrator, monitoring my key strokes well then check out ways to make teachers happy and perhaps realize that our time is valuable and so are we. Like a fellow blogger comments over at “I want to Teach Forever” : “Most importantly, our time must be respected. This statement has many meanings:
• give us as much uninterrupted instructional time as possible
• don't waste our time with pointless faculty meetings (meetings are for things that require discussion and debate, not for things that could be written in an email or paper memo)
• don't bury us in redundant paperwork
• let us have actual lesson planning time during planning periods
• before you schedule something on weekends, before and after school, or during breaks, discuss it with us first!”