“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.