Monday, April 4, 2011

Thoughts on a Tennessean article

One of the exciting things about taking a teaching job in Tennessee last year was hearing about all the plans for change and improvement across not only at my school and in my district, but also across the state.

After a crazy day, which ended on a hectic note because of the tornado watch, I came home and settled into my work. One of the ways I procrastinate is by reading the news. While I'm still loyal to my hometown paper and the New York Times, I've also begun reading the Tennessean, the paper here in Nashville. You'd think after a long day of working in education I would start with sections on world peace or politics -- topics that interest people over the age of 10. Nope - I jump right to the education section.

The top article on the Tennessean caught my eye: "Teacher morale hits rock bottom". Well, heck, here I was thinking it was just in my own little first year teaching bubble that it felt rough. The article says very little that hasn't been in the news recently. Some politicians are proposing that tenure procedures change, extending the period of time that teachers would have to work before being eligible. There's also a proposal to get rid of collective bargaining for teachers. A big part of the article discusses people's willingness to join the profession and to stay.

I was dumbfounded to see that for an article that was only posted today, it had already gotten over 150 comments.

The first comment that caught my eye was by someone going by Rumpelstilskin. My response was so loud my roommate asked if everything was ok. To save you the trouble of finding the comment itself, I've posted the comment below:

Well, I can see where teacher morale in the Davidson County public school system could have a morale problem. If you are a bad teacher you are probably going to be found out. If you are a good teacher and see how the Federal government forces you to coddle the underclass bottom feeders and the uneducable then you certainly could have good reason to have a morale problem. Then of course if you are a teacher in the Davidson county public school system because you could not get a job in the private sector you might have a morale problem.

Underclass bottom feeders? UNEDUCABLE? As I have said to several of my students, EXCUSE YOU. 

I appreciated the encouraging comments that I read, where people were defending the hard work that teachers do. Some were teachers, former teachers, people who knew teachers. 

But I keep hearing the same gripes from naysayers.

1. Teacher's get three months vacation each year. Summer break is not a vacation for teachers. I'm still trying to figure out if I can take a week off to go and see my family.  I had 7 days of vacation for fall/spring break and 10 days for winter break. Over those vacation days, I had to write report cards, plan, and submit other documentation. 
2. Lots of people work more than 40 hours a week. My day does not end when I come home. I routinely submit my hours to TFA, and it's usually in the range of 80-90 hours a week. I know that there are other people who work those hours. If I have a day where I can't go to work, I have 20 students dependent on me and a team of other teachers that I support who support me. Not showing up, and not showing up at 100 percent, makes me feel as though I haven't done my job. 
3.Teacher's get paid too much for their work. I can't think of any other career where people are expected to pay for so much out of their own pockets. 

But what makes me saddest? It's that there are people out there that truly believe that there are students we shouldn't even bother to teach. That people believe that student's can't learn. Bottom feeders? That brings up images of the kinds of animals you can't eat when you keep kosher. ANIMALS. Not PEOPLE.