“Stop being such a martyr.”
“All these teachers do is whine about how bad they have it.”
“It is your choice to put so many hours in. No one is forcing you to do all this.”
And my favorite, “You knew what you were getting into.”
Yes, I write about the realities of education and like some things in life, it isn’t always pretty. Not everyone is cut out to be a teacher, and not everyone wants to be one, and that is okay. We have doctors, lawyers, politicians, artists, retail workers, and everything in between that makes our complex world function, but attacking the foundation of society is dangerous. Teachers are the foundation of our system and whether you want to admit it, without us, society as we know it would fall apart. This a response to some of the comments that have been made on my articles, at parties, or comments I have overheard over the past year.
1. Stop being such a martyr. I don’t consider myself a martyr, but I would die for my students, and I know any educator would, and some have. I would throw myself in front of my kids to protect them from a bullet or tornado. I think that entitles society to at least listen to what educators have to say. Someone that is willing to risk their lives for child deserves to be heard. You may not agree with what we have to say, but you should at least listen with respect. We love education, and we love our kids. And we are willing to put everything on the line for them, even for the students that don’t want me to or the people who are rude and disrespectful to our profession, yes, we would risk our life for your child too.
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2. Whining about how bad we have it. Please. Whining and exposing the reality of a field are two different things. Whining is just complaining and not doing anything to solve the problem. Teachers are not just complaining. They go to in-services, training, and spend hours researching new ways to teach a concept your child did not understand. We meet with parents; we go back to school, and we march to show that there are only twenty textbooks for a hundred kids to share. We are not whining. We want the best for our students. If we don’t write, speak, or protest for our kids, would anyone see what our students need? Our students who sit in our classrooms would not know the difference. Why is that? Because we never what them to feel neglected or left out. We spend our money to give materials that the parents, the district, the state or even the federal government won’t provide. So we will it discuss or write about the state of education to anyone who will listen because it’s for our future.
3. No one is forcing you to put in all those hours. Technically, no. But I am thankful for the doctor that stops to help those in a car accident. Are they on the clock? No. But I am thankful they stopped to save lives. If we see a child is not performing well in our class, of course, we are going to go home and see if we can find something to help him or her. There is simply not enough time in the day for us to do all this extra work at school. If we only wrote recommendation letters to get your child a scholarship while we were at school, they would not have one. If your child needs tutoring, to make up a test, or advice, do you want us just to walk out and say, “Oh, I’m sorry, it’s three o’clock. I can’t do that.” The answer you are looking for is no. If you are one of those people who think that we can just leave our job at the door, I want you to think about your child, grandchild, niece, nephew, or some other child in your life. Do you think that child deserves all the time and energy in the world to help him reach his or her potential? We think so too. And frankly, eight hours just isn’t enough time to help foster the kind of growth in a child. Not every child is lucky enough to have a parent that reads to them or can afford a tutor, or afford to pay for an after school sport or club. Schools provide these things. And we give our time to nurture those kids. Yes, it is a choice, but it is the right choice.
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4. You knew what you were getting in into. Yes, we did. We have the best job in the world. It’s not all peaches and cream, but it is one of the careers that gives back and impacts the world. There are days when we are exhausted, and unless you are a teacher, you don’t understand. We knew we would give up a chunk of our paycheck to those kids. We knew that we would spend summers writing curriculum, going to classes, and in-services. We knew that hours would be long and we would be expected to tutor students and sponsor clubs. Yes, we knew all this.
What we didn’t know is that we would constantly be attacked for doing what we love. That we would be criticized for speaking our mind about things that needed to change for the betterment of our kids. We didn’t know that we would be called selfish for asking for a living wage that would probably go back into our classroom anyway. We didn’t know that being a teacher meant we would be watched and questioned by those who have never set foot in a classroom. What I do know is that we work our hardest every single day for our students. I know we would lay down our life for those kids. We knew that some time would be taken away from our families for this career.
Teaching is not for the faint of heart because no matter what you do, there will always be those that question and criticize. You need to know and understand that you are needed by those students in your classroom. Those young men and women are the ones that know the miracles you work and the lengths you go to make things better for them. We can only hope they will carry the memories of what you did for them and make society see that education is the foundation of society and those laying the foundation deserve respect.