Thursday, February 20, 2014

I am a Teacher

I am a teacher.  These are bold words in today's society where all I hear is how teachers are terrible, how we aren't doing a good job, how we are failing our children.  I am told that I shouldn't make so much money and that the education I have isn't worth the money I make.  I am told that I probably just teach so I can have the summer off.  I am told that being a teacher isn't a worthy profession.

I am an electives teacher of Family and Consumer Sciences.  Often, when I tell people this they turn up their noses at me like it is some horrible thing to teach sewing and cooking.  Even if that is only what I taught, what is the crime of students learning these skills?  I understand that I am not saving lives with teaching sewing skills, no one is going to die if they haven't learned the fine art of sewing a seam, but it is fun and interesting and may give them something they look forward to doing, a reason they want to come to school today.  I might save some lives with teaching cooking skills and nutrition.  I am not for one second bashing the other areas of the education system, but it has been awhile since I used an algebra equation, but I did cook dinner for my family tonight and take care of my kids, and communicated with my husband, and I might have sewed my friend a baby quilt recently.  While I really do love teaching sewing and cooking they are not the only things I teach.

I teach, just to name a few things:
  • Goal Setting
  • Values
  • Good Decision Making
  • Communication 
  • Getting along with the people in our lives - Family, Friends, Significant others
  • How to raise children in a loving and caring environment suited to their developmental needs
  • How to budget money, save, invest, bank, and have good credit
  • How to find an apartment and the difference between renting and owning
  • Nutrition and proper diet
  • Career options, job skills, vocational experimentation, and portfolio development
  • Design skills
  • Creativity building
  • The dangers of the world to students like drug and alcohol use, illegal activities, and unwise reproductive decisions
  • Leadership skills through FCCLA (Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America)
  • In addition to doing reading, writing, and math with students
I teach students real skills for real life.   Not too long ago I was at the eye doctor and the nurse and I were talking.  She said that she saw I was a teacher and asked where I taught.  I told her and she said her nephews went to my school.  I smiled and said that was great.  She asked what I taught and I told her.  She frowned at me and said, "Oh, well, I don't think they would take any thing like THAT."  I wanted to ask her if she realized how degrading she just had been, how insulting, and how deflating.  I just smiled at her and asked what kind of classes her nephews did take.  I didn't want to create waves, but in that moment, I really should have gone into the lament about what I do and stood up for myself and my career.  I am proud of what I teach and I think all kids should take some of our classes.

I truly love being in the classroom and working with high schools students.  I think that teachers need to be given a break.  We are working hard.  We are putting students first and have their best interest in mind.  We are trying to teach to multiple learning styles and constantly changing our strategies to meet the needs of students in the 21st century.

A few years ago, in our district, we took a 3% pay cut and the year after that we took another one.  In addition we haven't received any COLA raises, step raises, or increases in our salary because of continued education.  We aren't getting paid for performance.  We aren't getting any additional money what-so-ever.  While I understand that everyone is getting hit by the economic times, it is sad to me that I am not valued, and that there is really no plan in place to get any kind of raise in the near future.  If someone is a new teacher they are making the minimum amount and have no ability to go up in pay at all.  What other job in the country offers no pay raises for their employees?  There is absolutely no incentive to become a teacher unless you just love the profession.

Recently, at my school, we had a situation where no one could come or go from the building because of a threat to the school.  This is not the first time in my career that I have experienced this, it won't be the last, I am sure.  It is just the tip of the ice berg in terms of what I have seen and experienced when it comes to school violence.  The number of school shootings and violence has sky rocketed in the last few years.  They have been close to home, close to my heart, and far away, but no less heart breaking.  I do not understand these things.  Why are people making these terrible choices where children are involved?  It baffles me every time.  Every single time I am saddened and dismayed by the events that are happening in our schools in regards to violence.  I really do not know what the solution is to these acts, but I am sure that they need to stop.  People need to stop seeing schools as targets and start remembering that they should be places of safety for our children.

With all the school violence the only solution I have heard over and over again is to give teachers guns.  I don't want a gun.  Whose crazy idea is this?  Where are the viable solutions about having better security systems, more security workers, more something other than arming teachers who are generally passive, loving people who surely did not sign up for teaching so they could carry a gun.  If there is some kind of threat to our school, I still have to go outside my door to lock it where there may or may not be someone waiting.  Why can I not do something as simple as locking my door from the inside?

There is a "wonderful" state law that was made three years ago about how teachers are evaluated.  We have to jump through a lot of hoops to keep our jobs.  I think that if teachers, as public employees, must go through all these rules, set goals, be evaluated with a  ten page document of the things I can and cannot do well, and am not really allowed to ever be given an exemplary rating; than other public employees, including those making the laws, should have to go through the same evaluation process.  Why are we the only ones being examined microscopically in order to keep our jobs?

Right now, I am trying to focus on the important thing in teaching, the students.  I am trying to remember that going into the classroom each day and working with students and teaching them something new is what motivates me to get up each day and go into the school.  I am trying not to get mired in the bazillion things coming at me from every angle about the horrors of being a teacher.  I don't think I can do it alone though.  I think that people need to start standing up for teachers and respect them for the hard job that we have.  People need to stop thinking they know what it means to be a teacher when they have never taught others in a classroom or even been in a classroom in the last ten years or so.

I am not claiming to have a more important job than any one else, I am just lamenting about the profession I am experiencing.  I know that there are flaws in education and in teachers.  But can't we say that about every profession?  No system is perfect.  Instead of thinking of every flaw imaginable, can't we look at the amazing things that are being done in education?

My son is in kindergarten.  He has learned SO much in the last 6 months.  I am overwhelmed with the amount of information his little sponge brain has taken in.  I LOVE his teacher.  Every time I see her, or meet with her, or go in to the classroom for a party, I have tears in my eyes because of the love she shows to my son and to all the children.  She is caring and compassionate and is dedicated to teaching.  She is just one of the wonderful teachers I know, but she is such a shining example of what teaching is about.

So, yes I am a teacher.  I am proud to be a positive part of student's lives and to hopefully make a difference to them.  I am proud of my co-workers and the work they are doing.  I am proud to teach FACS and to give kids skills for life.  I am proud to be a part of education.