I am known for my self-deprecating humor. I am known for saying what no one else will say. Usually, my posts include some crazy, embarrassing admission, an admission that many will relate to. Most of what I put out “there” is lighthearted, silly, and humorous.
This post will be anything but. It will not be humorous. It will not be lighthearted. The only people who will relate are fellow educators. Despite this, I urge you all to read what I have to say here. Maybe, what I have to say will shine a light on a very important issue that touches us all, in some way or another.
What many of my blog followers don’t know is that I have a serious side. I am very passionate about social issues, specifically ones involving education. I am also extremely offended by injustice. Any injustice. I firmly believe that hard work should be rewarded, and that rewards shouldn’t just be handed to someone for doing nothing more than expelling used air.
Even if my words fall on deaf ears, even if my passion to be an advocate for change, changes nothing, at least I put my beliefs out into the world to be potentially heard. At least they are out there, marinating, simmering, bubbling, boiling.
After that, very lengthy, preamble, I will get to the point.
Let me tell you why education in America has such a horrible reputation. Let me tell you why good, influential teachers leave the profession in droves, with only half their sanity intact. Let me tell you where we need to begin if we want to start improving our education system.
As I sit here, typing, my mind is elsewhere. My mind is on my dwindling bank account. I have precisely $19 to my name (after bills are accounted for) until payday, almost two weeks away.
Sure, sure, maybe I am irresponsible. Maybe I buy $80 shoes on a whim. Maybe I have crippling debt. Maybe. Maybe not. That is not the point. The point is that I sit firmly on the lower-middle class economic rung. The very real reality is that I do not earn a wage that enables me to be 100% self-sufficient.
I see many of my friends and peers buying homes, getting married, traveling to luxurious locales, etc. and here I sit, worried for my future. How will I ever get out of my noisy midtown apartment? How will I ever save enough money for a down payment for a house? When will I ever stop praying I make it to payday, without having to use a credit card?
Boohoo. I know. It is just so sad. Maybe I should go get another job. Maybe I should continue my education, so that I can move up the salary ladder. Yup. Maybe.
Maybe, instead, teachers should be paid a living wage from day one.
Is that really such a novel idea? I’m most assuredly not the first person to suggest this…
We put money into things we value: sports, entertainment, the food industry. Then, when our waiters can’t calculate our bills, we complain. We curse the education system. The very system we put no attention, money, or concern into, until it fails us, personally.
Teachers are leaving the profession at a startling rate. In Nevada, there is such an extreme shortage of teachers that we are practically begging people off the streets to come teach our children. Not exactly off the streets, but we are welcoming unqualified people into a classroom of their own. A classroom they did not earn, like the rest of us.
When I was working towards my degree and teaching license, I had to complete 16 weeks of grueling student teaching. And, when I say, ‘grueling‘, I mean that I cried almost weekly (I am not a crier, so this was extreme for me). I could recognize the sound of my supervisor’s heels, five doors down, against the hallway floor, as she descended upon the classroom. The second I heard those “click-clicks”, I began sweating profusely, until my shirt was soaked, and she was long gone after ripping apart my lesson. I spent almost every waking minute writing lessons, preparing, and praying. It was the longest, hardest, unpaid 16-week work experience I have ever had. I felt like the stress, monitoring, being told I had to do my lesson planning again-because it wasn’t good enough, and feeling inadequate would never end. But, guess what? It did end, and I emerged a prepared, confident, take-charge teacher.
My school district, in order to entice classified employees into the classroom is offering a 3 week (I believe, paid) “mini” internship. They also have 3 years to complete necessary coursework, and unless this is just hearsay, they will be paid a sign on bonus, along with a starting salary higher than mine.
Full stop. I am still reeling from the sting from that slap in the face.
How can this be? How can unqualified individuals be welcomed to teach, in an already struggling state, with practically zero understanding of how to do their extremely important jobs? How can they make more than a teacher who has put in her due time? How can 3 weeks prepare you for the classroom?
Student teaching, the beautiful torture of student teaching, is a rite of passage. No one. No one should be handed their own classroom without completing the same amount of weeks with the same intensity and expectations. No one.
I am angry. Resentful. Bitter.
This was news I did not need to hear after learning that I am on one of the few salary steps not getting a raise this year.
Our teacher shortage wouldn’t even exist had the teachers who fled been paid what they were worth. This wouldn’t be happening if teachers were paid for the long hours they put in. I’m no fortune teller, but I bet that if excellent teachers have left the field, the inexperienced, unprepared ones will too.
Until teachers are fairly compensated, the festering wounds in our education system will not heal.
There will be at least one person who says, in response to this post, “You knew what you were getting into when you signed on the dotted line. Teaching is a calling, and if you can’t make it work, get out of the profession.”
Or, something like that.
To that, I will say the following:
- I will likely get out of the profession. Or, at the very least, spend thousands more on a masters degree, so I can work outside of the classroom and make more money.
- Teaching is a calling. You know who else calls? Your landlord and bill collectors.
- Teachers aren’t nuns, living in a convent. Do you think teachers who hear the “calling” live in magic, free teacher compounds?
- Get real.
- I knew exactly what my pay was when I signed on the dotted line. Then the cost of living went up, but my salary didn’t.
- Good day.
In ending, nothing will change, in regards to teacher pay. No one wants to pay for something if they have to wait longer than standard shipping times for it to be delivered. Investing in the future isn’t as rewarding as investing in the salary of a football player who rapes his girlfriend. Amurica!
When no one knows the difference between a country and a continent and everyone speaks and writes in text speak, maybe we will wish we paid to keep the good teachers. Maybe.