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“This Friday all teachers can wear jeans! Just donate $1 for our Sunshine Club  and wear your school shirts!” While I was excited to FINALLY be able to ‘dress down’ something bugged me around the premise of having to pay to dress comfortably.No matter how perturbed I was, I had 30 children to get ready for dismissal so I pushed it to the back of mind as I guided children to their buses.

As I got home and readied my kids for dinner, I still had a nagging feeling in my heart as I replayed the events of the day.  As I seasoned a piece of salmon,  it hit me like a ‘ton of bricks’- teachers are not treated like adults.

[bctt tweet=”In this country, teachers are treated like children.” username=””]

In the United States, there is a general belief that children should be instructed what to do every minute of their day with the ultimate goal of keeping them safe.  That same belief is held by those who make laws and policies for teachers- forcing us to operate in a professional world where our professional opinions, beliefs, and experiences are not validated or appreciated.

Teachers are routinely directed on how to teach their children down to the minute.

Teachers are spoken down to by (some) administrators, parents, politicians, and the general public.

Teachers are discouraged from running for political office and scoffed when we exert our expertise.

Teachers are told either directly or indirectly that it’s better to be ‘seen and not heard’.

Teachers are treated like children.

I know some teachers are going to roll their eyes and cry out, “not at my school” but let me finish with my experience.

Any professional knows that there is usually a dress code in their office, which can be routinely relaxed depending on the time of year, job site, etc. However, despite me working in an elementary school where I get down on my knees to work with my Kindergarten students, or I have to routinely help a child who’s made a mess on themselves, we are told to make sure we dress professionally so that parents, students, and other visitors will know we are professional. So anytime that we are ‘allowed’ to dress down, teachers at my school rejoice, but we don’t want to have to pay to do what other professionals routinely do.

For the second semester, our principal promised that we could dress ‘down’ on Fridays if we all (all 100 teachers, paraprofessionals, and school staff) agreed to donate $1 each Friday.  The money was going to a fund for our Sunshine Club for when we have to buy flowers or purchase a card for a staff member in distress. The money would be collected every Friday by our school secretary and if we opted not to pay, we would HAVE to be in our regular ‘professional’ attire. (This practice of us paying for celebrations is not new. We always have to pool together our money to buy the ‘extras’.)

However, the more I thought about it, the more I was agitated at the thought of us having to pay and the message it sends to our fellow teachers, that despite all we do for any relief, we must pay.

It seems harmless, but to me, it points to the bigger problem of wanting to be treated as a professional.

Just this week, I have had to:

  • hold going to the bathroom for three hours until my lunch break.
  • asked to work for a tutoring program that there doesn’t seem to be money to pay the teacher tutors.
  • babysit when parents do not pick up their children in a timely manner for afterschool activities.
  • come out of their own pockets for basic supplies for the second semester in my classroom.

…and that was just from the last three days of school.

As a teacher, I do a lot for my students, school, and colleagues. I stay late, come early to work with students, parents, and my colleagues to help make my school a happy place. So something as small as being able to wear jeans on occasion is something I look forward to. But, when I’m ‘browbeat’ to use money out of my pocket to fund what my colleagues need in their time of grief, it affirms to me that as a profession we are not respected and ultimately if we need something, it’s up to teachers to find the funds.

Which brings me to my original point, teachers are NOT treated as professionals.

Professionals are able to make decisions and their time is not micromanaged. A professional’s time is respected and they are able to have a conversation with their supervisors without feeling targeted or worse, abused. Adults are not given unrealistic expectations then punished when they don’t meet their deadlines.

However, all of the above happens to not only teachers but other school staff in a quest to educate our youth. When we endure encounter these mini attacks on our job, it’s a wonder that MORE teachers have not opted to just leave. The truth is that I will be a teacher until the day I retire, but in 2020, I am going to focus more on calling attention to the issues that I see that are FORCING teachers to leave in droves. The fight won’t be easy and I’m sure I will be silently retaliated against, but at this point, I don’t have anything to lose and everything to gain.



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  1. It is interesting that I just read your article. I discovered today that my fiancé is allowed to have meetings over lunch in restaurants outside of his building. I don’t know of any teacher every being allowed to have any kind of “meeting” in a building that wasn’t dictated by administration. This appears to be a common occurrence in other professions, but never in ours.

    In addition, I would like to add one more experience that has been leaving me with a sense of defeat as a teacher and a professional. I have been teaching almost 30 years and have loved it. However, I have seen a decline, like you and others, in the treatment of teachers. What I struggle with now is the parents that are unreasonable & then their children feel the same way. I have seen an increase in belligerent parents that come in screaming and swearing at staff & administration over very simple things. Now their children turn around and scream and swear at staff & administration knowing they’ll be supported by their irrational parents. At this point, we have multiple students who are doing whatever they want & are getting away with it. I have never seen such a horrible level of disruptive, oppositional, disrespectful, and at times dangerous behaviors. At one point, after I talked to an administrator about a student who had just been insubordinate and disrespectful, I was told, “if it makes you feel any better, he does it to me”. No, it doesn’t make me feel any better! How are we helping children if we allow them to get away with anything they want? What is also happening is other kids see the negative behaviors their peers display without consequences, and so mimick those same behaviors. We are creating a generation that has no respect for authority, who have limited social skills, do not know how to collaborate with others, need immediate gratification, and are belligerent to everyone. How is this helping to create well adjusted and employable adults? I think there should be more extensive dialogue, perhaps across the country, as to how we can take back our schools from families who are demanding and threatening with lawyers on speed dial. As educators, we need to help our children not only academically, but also with real and valuable life skills, like not becoming belligerent when unhappy, and not be afraid of the consequences of wrathful parents. I think many teachers are feeling beaten down with little hope in sight. We need to come together as educators and figure out what we can do, like sharing best practices. Maybe this is something we need to look at legislatively, giving teachers, administrators, and districts certain protections. In any event, something needs to change or we will continue to lose more and more dedicated and talented educators.

  2. I agree with everything Karen said above. As a second career teacher with over 20 years in the classroom, I see the behaviors that have escalated since I first started teaching in the late 90’s. When I first started teaching, I saw the negative behaviors in my middle school students and attributed much of the behaviors to adolescence. However, with the advent of NCLB and blame the teacher for everything that can go wrong in the classroom, from academics to behavior; I now see the same behaviors I saw in my middle school students, in kinders. It is time district educators took back our schools. Why do I say district educators and not include charter educators…simple, many charter schools “weed” out the “bad apples” who end up back in the district school system- though charter operators will tell everyone “they don’t weed out anyone.” These sometimes very dysfunctional students end up back in systems in which the teachers are overworked, underpaid along with dealing with all the other aspects of the job from out of pocket expenses to unreasonable mandates. RED for ED needs to be just the tip of the iceberg.

  3. I agree with everything said by others hear. One thing I would like to mention is the power of your union. Our working conditions such as being able to have a meeting outside of the school or having no dress code, can be addressed through the union. When money get tight language changes in a contract are free, such as no dress code or being able to leave the building at lunch. Having language about safety in the work place or working in a hostile environment also is free and can hold a lot of weigh in terms of being able to file a grievance. Unless a school system pays for a wardrobe allowance like some companies do, no school should have a dress code. These days teachers are in their knees, being spit at doing art projects etc. we need to get respect back into this profession and have teachers be involved with most of the decisions that affect our daily lives.

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