Wednesday, June 04, 2014

The Life of a Teacher Really is Pretty Great

There are two kinds of people in this world.  People that think that teaching is the easiest job on the planet, or those that think teaching is a profession of saints.  

People who don't know any teachers are usually the ones that think teachers have a pretty cushy lifestyle, while actual teachers are those that make up the latter group.  Or people that live with teachers...sometimes.

I've said many times how I've wanted to be a teacher my whole life.   Well, since I was 5 years old and first walked in to a classroom.  Ever since that day, I knew that I was destined to be a teacher.  I had received my calling.  It just took a little longer to fulfill that destiny than I had originally planned.  And, now I've just finished my second year of teaching, I think I've barely earned the right to make comments about how good teachers have it, while debunking some of the myths that are out there about teachers.

Before I actually walked in to a college classroom to start my teaching path, I "knew" five things about teachers:

1.  They only work 5 days a week from 7:30AM to 4PM
2.  They never work major holidays or weekends.
3.  They got off three whole months in the summer.
4.  They make pretty crappy money.
5.  Even though they make pretty crappy money, they still get paid to be off on holidays and during the summer.

And I bet if you ask any of those people in that first category of people that think teachers have the easiest job on the planet, they'll list off most if not all of those things on that list.  #4 might be replaced with the notion that teachers actually make pretty good money... I've heard that a few times, but most people are in agreement that teachers are not at the top of the earnings list when it comes to jobs that require a college education.

Of course, now that I am a teacher, I know that most of those things aren't true.  At all.

Here's what I NOW know about actually being a teacher, myself:

1.  In the two years that I've been teaching, I have arrived at work at 7AM and haven't left the school building before 5PM unless I had some form of appointment that I had to go to (which is about half a dozen times in those two years).  And 5PM is being reasonable.  I'd say 75% of my days were spent being at the school until AT LEAST 6PM.  I get 20 minutes for lunch, which is more like 10 minutes by the time I get my food heated up and sit down to eat.  I get a 50 minute planning period that I actually spend trying to get some work done, so that I can try to keep my head above water with the piles of paper that appear on a daily basis.  What usually happens is other people need to meet with me during that time to discuss school stuff, students, or my team is meeting to plan for the next week.

2.  Even though I'm not in my classroom on major holidays or weekends, I spend about 60% of my weekend and several holidays working.  Either writing lesson plans, grading papers, entering grades, or researching new teaching techniques and ideas.

3.  My official last day for summer break was May 27th.  I then spent May 28th and May 29th at school, volunteering my time, to help get the computer labs for summer school up and running.  I now have this week off, and then I go back on June 9th until June 27th teaching summer school.  I will go back to my classroom during the first week of August and until school starts getting my classroom ready for the new year.  By my calculations, that gives me about 5 full weeks off of work...and I guarantee  I'll spend a chunk of that time writing my units for next year.

4.  I currently make a little under $35,000 a year.  Which still ranks me below the poverty line. If I split that between 52 weeks, that's about $670 a week.  Divide that by 40 hours a week (a "typical" American work week) and that comes out to be $17 an hour.  I actually don't think that's "horrible" money, but being that I have a college degree and still make $2 less an hour than Hubby who works in a warehouse and has no college education, I don't suppose it's that great.  BUT, I could get technical and say that teachers are only "contracted" for 180 days out of the year.  So, my yearly salary divided by the 180 days comes out to be more along the lines of $24 an hour.  Much better sounding, but like I stated in #3, I work WAY more than 180 days out of the year.

5.  I don't actually get paid to be off on holidays and the summer, I get paid for 180 days worth of work, but it's stretched out and broken up over 12 months so that I have money to live off of during the time I'm not working.

So, as you can see, there's a lot more to the story than what most people think.  

Teaching is a very hard profession.  It takes motivation, willpower, patience, and dedication.  It means wearing many "hats":  Teacher, mother, father, nurse, counselor, caregiver, custodian, administrative assistant, data analyst, peace keeper, coach, social worker, and so on.   Also include student to that list, because a teacher never stops learning.

But, despite all the actual "truths" about the life of a teacher.  I wouldn't trade it for the world. 

Many teachers complain about the lifestyle.  They complain about their students, the school they work for, the pay, the constant changes to education reform.  Those complaints don't help our cause.  We get a bad rap, often by parents or people who were unfortunate enough to not have a great school experience growing up.  But, I don't suppose every single politician is corrupt, not all lawyers are in it for the money, and not all doctors are worried about insurance covering the bill.  

Judging the profession of teaching with a negative eye is like saying all Christians act like the Westboro Baptist people or all Muslims are terrorists.  Yet, unfortunately, there are people in the world that actually believe those things to be true.

Like every single race, religion, economic status, and employment pool, there are "bad eggs".  I know that there are bad teachers in the world, but I certainly wouldn't cast judgement on teachers in general because of a few bad headlines that make their way on to my news feed.  Unfortunately, the wonderful things that teachers do on a daily basis never seem to make the headlines.  That's a shame, because I know that there is plenty of news out there that would melt your heart, bring tears to your eyes, and want to make you go straight out and hug every teacher you meet if you knew ALL of the stories.

It infuriates me to no end to see people make comments about how they homeschool their children because of the horrible conditions in public schools, or people who bash their school districts left, right, and center about the teachers only caring about test scores and not giving two hoots about the actual kids.  So sad.  So not true about the profession as a whole.  I'd be willing to bet my last dollar that for every teacher that makes it in to the headline about some form of arrest, there's 1000 teachers that did something absolutely AMAZING that you'll never hear about on CNN or Fox News.

I will tell you that when I was growing up, I wanted to be a teacher so that I could teach.  Period.  That's it.  Then, when I became a mother, and actually began my journey, I wanted to become a teacher so that I could have more time with my kids, be off work more, only work the hours they were in school.  And what I've discovered is that there's SO much more to being a teacher than teaching, and I still work WAY more hours than my kids are in school.  

The teaching life isn't always perfect.  I get frustrated with rules and new laws that get passed by people who have never spent a day in the classroom.  I get frustrated with parents who don't seem to really care what I have to say, and treat me more like a babysitter than an educator.  I get frustrated when I have students who don't give a flying toot about their education and are perfectly content skating by doing the bare minimum because they are forced to show up every day, but wouldn't if they were given the choice.

But, despite all of the frustrations, there's not a single one that's enough to make me stop doing what I do.  Because, for every one frustration, there's a hundred reasons why I will never leave:  That student who needed SOMEONE to notice some potential.  That one student who celebrates understanding a concept they've spent months trying to figure out.  The student that may have no support at home, but gets every bit of support they need in my classroom.  The student who's missing a parent, and feels like that void is filled partly by being with me.  The student that has spent years being labeled "the problem child" when really, they were just bored and needed something to challenge them.  The student who cries because they have to be in my class, because I'm the "mean teacher" and then bawls like a baby on the last day of school because they just can't bare to think of being in a class without me.  The student that starts the year out speaking barely a word to ANYONE, and is then the child I laugh at everyday towards the end of the year because they are cracking jokes and constantly talking.  

And I could go on with this all day.

And do you want to hear something really funny?  The one thing that got me writing this post this morning was the pure joy I received going on a Wednesday morning at 8:30AM to do my grocery shopping.  I thought to myself in the car... this is GLORIOUS!  I am so lucky to be a teacher.  As soon as I get home, I'm going to grab a cup of coffee, sit on my patio, and blog about how lucky I am to have the best job in the world.

I had no intention to get off on the tangent I did, but that happens to me all of the time.  When I really think about the blessings in my life, I realize that there is so much more to them than I realize.  

My job has some of the most amazing perks.

It is EASY for me to get out of bed every morning and wonder what's in store for my day.

It is EASY for me to sit down on a day off and work on lesson plans and grading papers, because it's what I do.

It's EASY for me to cherish the time I do get off so that I can sit and enjoy the world around me.

It's EASY for me to put my children's lives in the hands of the teachers I work with, because I'm lucky enough to know how the teachers in my district feel about their students.

It's EASY for me to cry at the end of the year, because I'll miss my kids so much.

It's EASY for me to go back to work after 5 week off, because I'm so dang excited to meet my new kids and face the challenges of what a new year has to offer.

It's EASY for me to be a teacher.  Period.

Not always.  But most of the time.

And, knowing those things about myself make me very happy.  I am living my dream.  

Who can't be happy about that?

Do I think I'm a saint?  Heck no!!  Do I think I deserve some kind of medal for what I do?  Nope.  Do I think my job is any more important than anyone else?  Not really.

Do I think I have the absolute best job on the entire planet?  You can bet your A** I do!!


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