For the past few years, I’ve loved my job.
I woke up early, excited for each new day because I was excited to see what the day would bring. I worked hard. I barely slept, and when I did I usually dreamed of new lessons I could use. I built my repertoire. I built my reputation.
I became a kick ass teacher.
That is until I came under attack. Not by my 33, 34, 35, sometimes 36 students (yes, 36) in one standard level class—scholars who have been in and out of prison, on and off drugs, pregnant or parenting, abused, neglected, and unloved in their homes. Students who have jobs, play two or three sports, are in clubs or youth groups, and raise money and food for the homeless and needy our communities and abroad. No, these are not the ones who attack me. These are the ones who respect me. I’m being attacked by those who should be supporting me. Those who are in power. Those who have the chance to improve the lives of my students, but choose rather to further their own political agendas.
They are attacking the public education system and imprisoning the teachers with their illogical policies and backward agendas. Worse yet, they are pitting educators against one another spitting out orders to collaborate in learning communities while proposing and passing laws that do nothing but promote a divisive culture.
It enrages and exhausts me.
I’ve been a teacher for seven years. Three of those seven years I have been asked to train student teachers to enter this arena—without pay (though Wake Forest has offered courses as compensation; I haven’t had the time with all my school extracurricular duties—SIT committee/chair, Key Club Sponsor, IEP meetings, tutoring, etc.–to take them up on this offer and, let’s face it, this is not the same economic advantage). Nevertheless, I agreed to take on the extra responsibility of a student teacher, sharing my lesson plans, insights, discipline strategies and ideas. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy having a student teacher–because I love teaching!
Now Governor McCrory proposes to give starting teachers a raise, bumping up their base pay to a whopping $35,000 in the next 2 years.
I make less than $35,000
There was no mention of adjusting the base pay so mine would match starting teacher’s. Best case scenario—I, with 8-10 years’ experience, would make the same as a first year teacher. Worst case—I make less.
I just trained them.
I just gave them all MY lesson plans that I worked 7-10 years on.
And my governor wants to pay them more than me.
Someone tell me what that does to a school culture?
North Carolina just passed a law that will remove tenure for teachers. Regardless of your views of the validity of tenure, the follow up legislature is appalling: over the next four years, all counties must identify the top 25% of their teachers and offer them a bonus of $500/year to surrender their tenure early.
Counties are alowed to choose how they are handling this legislation. Some are supporting it by coming up with plans, some are opposing them by breaking the law, and some are letting their teachers decide.
It’s a little like throwing the ‘steak’ into the dog’s cage and to watch the dogs duke it out (dog fighting, by the way, is illegal for a reason…).
How are we supposed to work together and collaborate if we’re all fighting with one another over politics and policy?
We’re under attack.
This is my plea. Stop attacking educators. All we want to do is teach; we want to educate and enrich your students. We want to collaborate. We want to be successful.
So why are we sabotaging our future?
In my frustration I wrote a short story. Here is a small selection…let me know what you think.
[…] Everywhere I looked there were stacks of papers piled high. The trash was overflowing with takeout containers and unwashed dishes piled up in the sink.
“What a slob,” I scoffed, thinking about how meticulously I organized everything in my life. I would never let my home get this disorganized.
“You hate living like this,” future me spoke clearly, breaking into my thoughts like a shockwave. “But you never have time to cook or clean any more. You live alone because you don’t have time to go out and meet anyone and when you do have a rare moment of extracurricular entertainment your profession scares them off. You might as well announce you are the Bride of Chuckie—that’s just how quickly the
“I—you—what?” For a second time I was at a loss for words. I scanned the room in an absolute panic. Finally the question I really wanted to ask bubbled to the top of my jumbled brain. “What about my writing?”
I watched as my eyebrow raised.
“You used it to line your bird’s cage.”
“But I hate birds.”
“It was cheaper than a dog—or a security system,” she said with a shrug. “You even trained it to bark.”
“You’ve got to be joking.”
“Sqwak! Arf, Arf! Sqwak!” The offensive animal spoke up from the corner.
“I’m really not.”
I stared at the depressing bird in the corner with nothing less than disgust on my face as the scene melted away and door number three loomed before us.
When the final door opened, my brow wrinkled again. I wasn’t expecting the tal
l, dark haired man with an unattractive comb over.
“Who is that?”
“You’re real boss,” the bitterness in her tone shocked me and I stared at my future self, waiting for the explanation. None came. I looked back at the man, who was talking incessantly on the phone about something political. The golden name plate glared back at me: Woody Dixon.
“I work for Woody Dixon?” I tried not to choke on the ridiculous name. I looked at my future self and watched as a smile twisted up on my face.
In the corner sat a presentation board which read:
You voted for me so I could take us back to basics with our ABCs…
-Abolishing tenure and equalizing teacher evaluations
-Balancing budgets across the state by cutting funding in schools
-Cutting educator pay based on standardized test scores
I turned back to my host and noticed a cigarette that had not been there before.
“O my God! What are you doing?”
“Oh don’t worry,” she replied, “These are healthy cigarettes; they’re supposed to relax and de-stress you. Of course, in ten years, they may find out that they lead to sterilization, decreasing IQ or even death, but no one seems to mind that right now. Senator Dixon helped pass a law so they use teachers instead of animals for all testing experiments now. We’re more expendable than the animals according to the most recent voter polls, so everyone is happy.” […]