A few people seem to be getting the impression that I just generally don’t like teachers. I’ve been called a “teacher basher.” And I guess I can see how people might get that impression, since this blog has become a sort of dumping ground for my concerns and frustrations concerning my kids’ school experiences. It’s true, I don’t utilize this blog to write about the positive stuff. I started this blog to have a place to write specifically about homework: policies, how homework impacts my kids and our family, and my efforts to see our district’s current policies change to reflect some sanity and restraint. In the course of my efforts, I’ve started putting voice to a lot of other frustrations with our school system, and this blog has evolved from being just about homework to being about school frustrations in general.
Let me be clear, though: I do not hate teachers. I have plenty of friends who are teachers, and even if I didn’t, I am well aware that there are many outstanding teachers out there who are dedicated to the true mission of their profession – to make a positive difference in the lives of kids through educating them. There have been teachers in my children’s lives who have made a difference, and I hold them in high regard. I welcome the opportunity to thank them, to express my heartfelt appreciation for what they do.
That said, I’m tired of the Teacher = Hero conversation, the Teacher = Martyr conversation. Just because you decide to be a teacher does not mean you are necessarily good at it, or that you automatically get to climb on a pedestal and wear a halo. Some teachers are bad at teaching. Some teachers are apathetic. Some teachers are harsh and actually do damage to kids’ psyches (when I was in grade school, a teacher once grabbed me by the arm and called me a “little bitch.”) A lot of teachers complain about the “system” but do nothing to fight against it, thereby enabling and empowering the system they complain about – the one that is not good for teachers OR students. Some teachers are burned out – maybe understandably so – and are clearly just hanging around to collect their pension. Some teachers are more interested in maintaining their authority than in fostering creativity and critical thinking, or entertaining parental concerns.
The bottom line is that being a teacher is not an unpaid volunteer position. People don’t become teachers purely out of the goodness of their hearts – they do it to make a living. It’s a profession of one’s choosing – and teachers are compensated for what they do. Are they underpaid? I can’t answer that, as that is a subjective question. The elementary school teachers in my district seem to be paid fairly well (and I say this based on knowing that my kids’ teachers, specifically, fall into the $70k + a year range): Fullerton School District Salary Schedule. They also have their health insurance paid for, their liability insurance paid for, sick time, several weeks of vacation time per year, a pension, and a union that stands behind them and makes sure they don’t get fired no matter how crappy a job they do absent criminal behavior. Some people say they should make what doctors and lawyers make. Doctors and lawyers don’t receive any of those benefits listed, and they carry huge student loan debt (and generally require a whole lot more schooling). So, I don’t know.
Yes, teachers work a lot of overtime. Yes, teachers often spend quantities of their own money on classroom supplies, etc. Yes, what teachers do is important to society. It’s a noble profession that is probably undervalued as a whole. It’s certainly not the only profession that can make those claims, though – there are a lot of professions that involve hard work and long hours for the betterment of society, and which are undercompensated and underappreciated (how about prosecutors? Nurses? Police officers? Hell, how about our armed forces?)
So, no, I don’t hate teachers. And I’m not out to bash teachers. But I’ve had enough bad experiences, personally and through my kids, that I’m not going to sit here and hold all teachers up as heroes just because they’re teachers.