Friday, April 14, 2017

Year 7: Week 29 – The Insecurity of It All

I’ve never had any other job than being a teacher except for some musician gigs. While I do believe that other jobs are full of insecurities, there are unique things about being in a teacher in America that I’ve recently reflected on that reveals the insecurity at the core of many educators.

This thought about teacher insecurity came to me after I did this Presidents’ Day presentation. It was a great success and one of the most beloved things that I’ve ever done at this school. The weird thing is that even after many emails and people from all corners of the school giving me complements, I still felt under-appreciated for the work that I had done. It was a preposterous thought from a logical point of view, but I just couldn’t get over this feeling of not being recognized.

It's not a big surprise why I felt this way.

It's so pervasive that teachers spend their own money on school supplies that there is a special consideration in our taxes for teachers to ride off money they spend on their students in addition to normal work deductions. Can you imagine someone working in a law firm having to spend personal money on office supplies and gifts for clients?

We’ve gotten to the point in our society that a recent school shooting at San Bernardino, didn’t take over the national conversation. Yes, there are a lot of things happening in our society, but this lack of public attention about the safety of our children and the people who dedicate themselves to teaching them is disheartening.

Teaching unions get blamed for many issues in education. While not all teacher unions are created equal and some are less helpful then others, it is unions who fight for class sizes, budgets for classrooms, and other important resources for students. During teacher contract negotiations, in addition to advocating for pay, unions have to advocate for reasonable class sizes.  Isn't this something that administrators should be fighting for as a basic need for students?

Teachers are more often than not underpaid. They work to address societies failings and often receive the blame for not doing enough to address issues other people created. Achievement gap? Schools didn’t create this. Systemic racism, racially inequitable drug laws, forced migration and exploitive business practices led to this issue. Yet, teachers are on the front lines taking responsibility and trying to do something about this problem.

Teaching is not a prestigious job. In a society where job prestige is more tied to how much money you make more then how much good you do in the world, teachers don't climb to the top. Also, jobs that are traditionally held by women aren’t as well respected.

It trivializes our work when the secretary of education has no experience in public education, it hurts that people argue that we are overpaid (yup, people have told me this to my face), and it’s really hard to not feel discouraged about being a teacher after a difficult day at work, when you have to go home and spend an additional hour and a half doing work at home beyond the nine hours you spent at school. For some teachers, in addition to this work at home, they have a to go too a second job to just to keep them afloat.

When you consider all of these things, it’s kind of crazy that anyone chooses to be a teacher at all. Somehow we are here and we are doing it every day, bravely, and courageously. It is up to teachers to buoy each other up and our allies to spread the word of what it means to be a teacher in America.

I chose this job.  I'm proud to be a teacher.  However, part of this gig is doing what we do in the context of all of this negativity. That's something we work through and we deal with for the sake of the children in America.  If you want to help us out.  The first step is understanding the insecurity of it all.

The next step is listening to us.

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