Anyone who thinks that teachers are overpaid, lazy, complaining slackers whose cushy jobs could be done by 10 year old Indonesian factory workers is a freakin’ ignorant moron.
There. I said it. Someone had to.
Unless you’ve taught, you have no clue how difficult it is to teach well and how much hard work it requires, much of which is done outside the classroom. I teach in an after school program which, I will admit, is not the most challenging teaching position out there. Yet, even in this low-key teaching job, I put in hours of prep work before the session even starts, and each week I put in more hours on top of class time correcting papers, putting together projects, and dealing with parents and other administrative tasks. When all is said and done, I get paid for maybe half of the hours I put in. My situation is the rule, not the exception.
Your typical teacher may only be in the classroom from 8am-3pm, but she is doing hours of work after that final bell rings. In addition, her lunch hour and breaks were probably soaked up by some school-related duty. And I can guarantee that before the first day of school, she’s already put in at least a couple of weeks of work. As for that long summer break, teachers don’t get paid for it. Many teachers have to get another job to cover their expenses during this extended “vacation.”
These are just the logistics of the job, the raw measure of the time a teacher puts into it. Beneath that is the work itself, the actual activity of teaching. Let me tell you, it ain’t easy. To engage a mind, to make it think and understand, to help it grasp basic and not-so-basic concepts requires not only intelligence, but ample training and a generous store of patience. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone can do it, much less do it skillfully. If you doubt me, home school your kid for a month and see if you don’t start perusing boarding school brochures.
As if that weren’t enough, teachers have to constantly deal with parents. That’s a challenging job by itself. First you have the demanding parents who expect you to transform their undisciplined, uninterested, unmotivated mess (there, I said that, too) into an Einstein in the brief span of a trimester and have no qualms making their expectations known via every available form of communication, including cornering you for an hour after school or calling you during dinner. On the other end of the scale, you have the undisciplined, uninterested, unmotivated parents who fail to support their children or your efforts to help them. Fortunately, the span between is occupied by reasonable, caring parents who only want the best for their children and who need your time and help as much as those on the extremes. No matter where a parent falls on the scale, a teacher has to help them all.
I won’t bore you with the litany of administrative tasks teachers have to tend to, nor will I run through the numerous professional development seminars and other classes that teachers must take to keep their knowledge and skills current. And they do all of the above without the promise of fortune or fame, without million dollar bonuses or endorsement deals or golden parachutes. They do it despite the frequently hostile attitude of the ignorant public and the present decline in public teaching conditions. They do it even though we so easily forget and take for granted the enormous good they do for society. Thank god they do it.
So to everyone who doubts that teachers earn every penny of their meager salaries I say educate yourself. Seriously. You don’t deserve their dedication.