I’m Sorry You Majored In… (anything other than teaching)

Though I touched upon this in an earlier post, and I tried so hard not to bring this up, the abundance of snowy days this winter and the amount of whining and complaining I keep reading have driven me to feel the need to say something. First and foremost, I’m not saying any of this to be overly harsh and I’m not out to disrespect or alienate anybody. I’m also going to say right now that I’m using “you” in the most general sense because it’s easiest for my purpose. I am not yelling; I just want to make my side heard. That being said…

Look, I’ll be perfectly honest with you. I’m sorry that you weren’t an education major, but until you’ve taught for three weeks in a school, I really don’t want to hear you say snarky things like “Oh, I wish I still had snow days” or “Gee, it must be so nice to be a teacher right about now.” People like me are becoming silently infuriated at you, and my guess is that you know more than one teacher.

I’m not entirely sure where the idea got started that teachers have this luxurious, easy life. Just because when you were in school you did nothing at night, on the weekends, over holidays, and during the summer doesn’t mean that teachers follow the same schedule. In fact, many of the days the students aren’t at school, the teachers are. They’re sitting through horrible professional development seminars and in-service presentations. The funny thing is that, in many districts, they have to sit through those same things periodically during the summer.

First, Pennsylvania has a really good teacher education program that permits reciprocity in something like 35 or 38 other states. That’s why we churn teachers out of here. It’s not an easy program though, and so while many people I knew of had light semesters of 16 credits and went out drinking and partying all the time or had a lot of downtime, I can think of two semesters in my entire college career where I had 18 or fewer credits. Usually I had a course load of anywhere between 20 and 24 credits so that I could make myself as well-qualified as possible for the job I wanted. You know how your senior year spring break was so awesome because you either went on some crazy trip with your friends or you just went home and relaxed? Education majors were still at school doing their student teaching.  

This is obviously the profession that I chose, and because I have teachers in my family, I knew what I was getting into. I will never say that teachers work harder than any other profession (doctors and lawyers come to mind first, but I know there are others), but they do work really hard in a job that doesn’t pay well, has very few perks, and is all but totally thankless. Remember babysitting? Remember how any more than two kids and suddenly you were feeling really stressed out? Imagine 20-30 of them at a time. All day. (In heels, if it that clears the picture up for you.) Remember how cheated you felt when the parents came home two hours later and handed you a $10 bill?

Teenagers are some of the meanest, nastiest people on the planet. They just aren’t nice. I’ve had my desk broken into. I’ve had my belongings destroyed. I’ve had kids get right in my face and call me all kinds of words that I won’t even repeat. I had a student bring bullets to school and after expressing my concern and the concerns of his classmates, the administrator said to me, “Don’t worry. I’m sure it’s nothing.” This isn’t a job you take if you’re looking for respect. Sure, there are some really great kids, but there were certainly days where I felt like sitting in a cubicle with nobody bothering me would be a whole lot better than being verbally abused on a regular basis. Then, if you need more stress, there’s an administrator in the back of your room observing your every move. There are goal meetings and data collection. There’s data analysis. There are always and forever parents complaining about something you’re doing. Parents can be just as nasty as the kids. There are school committees you’re required to participate in. There are the hours spent laboring over lesson plans that address specific state standards, only to be ruined when fewer than five students have done their homework. There are the repeated pleas to administration for disciplinary assistance (requesting detentions and suspensions) that are totally ignored, virtually guaranteeing that those specific students will never take you seriously.

Did you really think that teachers do nothing in the evenings? There were days when I would go to work at 7 a.m., envying those with 8-4 and 9-5 jobs, and be there until 7 at night. On conference days, I would be at school for 14.5 hours. If I left around 3, I was taking my work home. If they have all this free time on the evenings and weekends, how do you think your tests, homework, projects, and papers got graded? They might have time to grade a few small things at school throughout the day, but I promise you they were working at night and on the weekends. I can personally attest to the fact that every year I was teaching full time, I was grading work over Christmas and Easter breaks.

Let me leave you with this final thought: As a teacher, I had a 40 hour base work week. That’s what I was paid for. I was not paid for all of the extra hours I had to put in at night, on the weekends, and over holidays. It takes me 20 minutes per paper to grade a 3-4 page research paper, which is the shortest I will assign. In Virginia (a job I had to leave because the pay wouldn’t meet the cost of living), I was teaching 176 students. Do the math. It takes almost 60 hours to grade those papers. If I turn them around in 2 weeks, that’s 30 extra hours that I’m not being paid for each week. 30 hours of all that free time people seem to think we have so much of. So yes, teachers might work 10.5 months out of the year, but they’re working twice as hard as many professions in those 10.5 months. And I’m not saying this with the intention of alienating other people who work hard. Everyone works hard at their jobs, but not everyone has to listen to everyone else complain about them every time it snows (or any other time, for that matter). The next time it snows (or whenever), instead of complaining about how you wish you were a teacher so you could have the day off, really and truly, email one of your old teachers and thank them. I promise you it will make that person’s entire day just to be thanked.

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