Myth: Tenure still exists.
Tenure might still exist in some places, but certainly not Colorado, and certainly not at the K-12 education level. I hear this myth brought up all the time and am wondering who is the runner of the gossip mill still. Like many places, Colorado replaced tenure with an evaluation system, so any teacher can get canned at anytime, for any reason (with that being said, even with the evaluation system, there are still bad teachers teaching).
Myth: I get so much time off.
This is partly true; I do get a lot of time off. But, my salary is also pro-rated for this. By the time I finish my master’s, I will have just as much education, if not more, than someone with an MBA, and yet, I will still be making less than half of the national average.
I should also add that my “time off” is never quite my “time off”. I’ve been mostly excited for this five day Thanksgiving break, because it means I can catch up on my grading and responding to e-mails. I can finally work on cutting that song for my dance team. I can finish that book I have to teach next week. Like the rest of you, my time off really just transforms into my day to “work from home”.
Myth: I should be teaching real life skills instead of reading books.
You know, there is such thing in this world as “parents”. People somehow get this misconception that our teachers can be the sole caretakers of our child’s development, and if the child does not succeed, its due to the teacher, and the parent has nothing to do with it.
There are two philosophical camps: we teach what the kids do during their daily lives to “connect to them”, or we teach what they do not do during their daily lives because they won’t get it anywhere else. I can’t guarantee that my students’ parents know how to deconstruct a plot line, how to look for fallacies in an argument, how to run spell check, so those are the things I teach.
Myth: “Those who can’t, teach”.
I’ve met many people in my short teaching career who went into it, thinking it was an easy opt out, and leaving with extreme PTSD. We all think that because we went to school, we know how to teach school. But, as anyone who has tried to teach before knows, its much more than just paying attention and turning in your work. Its emotionally taxing, physically taxing, ego-taxing. You have people from all different directions, criticizing you. You know you are the topic of dinner conversations. You punish a student and immediately become “a bitch”. It takes a very strong person to get in front of a bunch of self absorbed, narcissistic, insecure kids.
As a young female teacher (and a former “cheerleader”), I am constantly battling gender stereotypes. Every year, I will have a couple of male students who walk in, kick up their feet, and expect to do nothing, because I am a female and “must not know anything”. I will get a couple of female students, who sense me as competition, and spend the whole class, scowling at me, and whispering about me. I meet parents, who are skeptical of my energetic presence, and are careful to let me know that by their child failing my class, I am ruining the chances of med school in the future. I meet community members, who literally to my face have said, “All teachers are lazy, don’t know anything, and only teach 20% of the required skills” (My wound is still healing from that one).
I am going to be honest with you, I am really, really smart. And, my fellow co-workers are also really, really smart–potentially some of the smartest people I have ever known. My undergraduate degree is in English and psychology, which means I know a lot about humans, and a lot about how to manipulate humans. My master’s degree is in Writing/Rhetoric, which means I know a lot about how to manipulate humans through language. I could be a very dangerous politician or salesman, but I purposely choose not to.
So why do I do it? While teaching is by far the most difficult thing I have ever had to do, its also the most rewarding. This year, as schools went back into session, the focus was on teacher shortage. Across the country, rural, urban, and suburban districts reported on having vacant positions. Because of this timely occasion, articles popped up everywhere, illuminating teacher shortages and problems school districts currently face.
In my Bible study this summer, we read ‘Restless’ by Jennie Allen, which is a book structured around finding purpose in life. In the book, Jennie Allen talks about sitting at home with her first child, feeling like her existence meant nothing, and meandering to Target, because she did not know what else to do. As I sat in my Bible study and listened to this story and many other stories about unfulfillment, I realized just how lucky I am to be a teacher. Teaching is the best job in the world.
As humans, we are constantly striving for our existence to be validated. In world of 6 plus billion people, I want to know that I matter, when I depart, people will be effected, and often times, we know our existence is valid when we can see it wearing off on other people. Right, this is why we feel the need to dominate the conversation and interrupt other people when they are talking–we want our voices to be heard. Or, this is why we bully other people–we want to watch how our mean face, our sly comment, our territory stamping is impacting someone else (even if that is in a negative way). Or, why we wear absurd clothes, listen to loud music, engage in untactful behaviors–we want people to notice us, talk about us, so that w can see that we matter in this populous world.
As Americans, we are also workaholics. We work 80 plus hour weeks. We define ourselves by our jobs. We revolve our social schedules around our jobs, and I am so fortunate that my job extends benefits past my pay check; that I can see every day how my existence impacts someone else’s. From the social things, such as teaching students to say please and thank you to each other, or the academic things, such as watching them institute a plan for their essays, I impact people (of course, I hope that impact is a positive impact, but there are certainly times I could negatively impact at well). I leave my classroom, every single day, feeling fulfilled, and knowing that I made a difference, even if just a small one, in the world. Its slightly creepy, but I love just observing my students work together. I love hearing their classroom discussions carry into the hallway. I love watching their faces when they get a better grade on their vocabulary test. I think one of my most favorite teaching moments was when my team went to Noodles for dinner, and as we began to leave, they all neatly stacked their plates, pushed in their chairs, and threw away their trash without having to be told.
I have the best job in the world.
(And, because of that great gift, I also believe, by choosing teaching, we have a strong moral obligations to uphold)