Why? That's what I've been wondering lately...why I'm teaching, why do I have to justify my job to others, why do I feel demonized?
Every time I read the paper I get extremely frustrated. Yesterday in the opinion section of the paper, I again saw teachers and teaching relegated to statements like "free health care" and "summers off for break". I wish people would get things straight...they latch onto the statements and use them as facts.
Firstly, I don't get free health care. I pay for it through my benefits. Education gets an allotted pot of money. The school district and union then sit down and figure out how they are going to allocate it. The teachers for the past few years have decided to use part of it to offset our health care. We have given up money that we could be using in our salaries to help pay our health care. How much LESS interesting is it to know the facts versus what everyone thinks is going on there?
Secondly, I don't have summers off. In fact the last time I had a "summer off" was to work on my master’s paper. I have worked or coached EVERY summer since I began teaching. Every five years, teachers are required to be recertified to teach. With the ever changing requirements from NCLB, sometimes our certifications change. Last summer I had to go back to UNI to take two classes. These two classes now make it possible for me to teach reading and Language Arts to Kindergarteners through 12th graders. I don't get paid to take these classes, I PAY!
If I'm not taking classes to get recertified, I'm teaching or working a second job. Usually, it does have something to do with my career though. I don't get paid to not work in the summers either contrary to popular opinion. We, in the Des Moines school district have decided to spread out our pay throughout the year.
Thirdly....and this is something to really pay attention to. Governor Branstad and part of the House of Representatives have decided for 0% allowable growth for the next two years. I wonder if people understand what this means? This means that we are only allowing funding for the amount of students we have in our district now. If we get any more students in the district - we SOMEHOW have to fund them. Where are we getting this money? Hmmmm? I wonder.....that's right our school districts will have to eat the cost!!! If Iowa schools weren't strapped enough, now we would have to take up the slack. When the article blames schools and school boards for raising property taxes and outsourcing to other places....it's not us! We have to figure out where to get the funding to pay for ANY student that would potentially come into the district based upon what the LEGISLATURE and the Governor allot us. So blaming us for the inevitable raise in property is specious, at best.
Fourthly, the part of the article that I would like to address was the quote of the "average salary". I loved it. It was around the $50,000 range. That's nice. But do you realize that ALL teachers were in that average number? Teachers that have been teaching for 25 + years to first year teachers? If you want to talk apples to apples, break it down. What was the average by age, sex, and race? Then compare it to the private sector. Make sure they all the same education though - ALL teachers have a four year degree and some have masters. Those figures would actually show an appropriate comparison and breakdown of the material.
Again - lastly, if you don't know a teacher and have never been in the profession - I challenge you, come sit in a classroom. Come watch us do our jobs. If you want your children educated by people that are trained in the curriculum, management and care that it takes for us to do our jobs, then we need to know that we are appreciated in what we do. Teaching is a challenging profession, but I love what I do. I love making those connections to my students and watching them make connections to what I'm teaching. I love the seeing how excited they can get and then being able to show what they know. I love seeing that light and excitement as they learn something new for the first time. Going into this profession, I knew that it wasn't for the money or fame or glory - it was the love of the subject I was teaching and the love of the subjects I would teach.
Please remember this when you read things and hear things about teachers. Please make sure you get all the facts and not just latch on to what is being repeated over and over. Please remember who taught you - the good and the bad and what they brought to your life. We are your neighbors, friends and citizens of Des Moines too. Please don't forget that.