Thursday, March 03, 2011

"You Feel Punched in the Stomach"

Well, it's another fun-filled day of being a public educator in a union here in the U.S. in 2011. After rising at 5 a.m. to work on a lesson plan for the day, I'm making a quick blog post before getting dressed, climbing into my 13-year-old car, and driving over to the school in which I work. Today will be a day full of calling parents to try to cajole them into making their children not curse, drink soda, and/or sleep all the way through one of my classes. As you can see, I have one of those cushy unionized public worker jobs, and then I have the nerve to take the summer off as well.

So I enjoyed this article from the Times, which explores the public schizophrenia about teachers pretty well. The public wants good teachers, but maybe doesn't want to pay them; the public believes that they collectively had good teachers, but deeply resents the perceived benefits for which teachers bargained and worked hard. The frustration comes out in jabs about having "part-time jobs," when my job is anything but part-time. Without drawing a bright line around Saturdays and one or two evenings a week, my job would easily consume 60+ hours a week if I let it. "You feel punched in the stomach" when you hear the snide remarks, admitted one teacher to the Times, and I know what she means. It's difficult enough to do a good job under the circumstances in which many of us work; it's much more difficult to feel like public support, both moral and material, is slipping away, encouraged by elected bullies who have never taught a day in their lives.

The Times article does suggest that there is a backlash to the backlash, and that the public may be coming round to the idea that anti-teacherism has gone too far. I hope they're right. We need and want the support of parents and community members in our work. I don't need support in the form of a medal or a monument; I wouldn't even say that my effort is exceptional among teachers, as I know many teachers who work just as hard as I do. But stop the nasty comments, understand how hard we work, and demand that governments live up to the contracts that they signed. Maybe these days that is too much to ask, but it doesn't seem like it should be.

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