As the school year is coming to a close and I prepare to leave for summer break I keep pondering the teaching profession. More and more I see new articles, Facebook posts and blog posts etc. etc. accusing teachers of every wrong thing that has ever happened. Teaching as a profession is something that is easy to criticize and a convenient scapegoat for a lot of things. That being said I see the constant posts from other teachers where they make themselves out to be a martyr.
I hear complaints ranging from "we don't actually get summers off", "we do a lot of work at home", "we arrive early and stay late", "we don't get paid enough" etc. etc. and those comments frustrate me-they make the whole teaching profession look lazy and give people a bad impression of us.
I do work in the summers absolutely, but I don't work anything close to a 40 hour week. My only school related OBLIGATION (something that is required) for the summer is a 4 day conference in July-and it's only a obligation because I took a volunteer leadership position at school. There are many professional learning opportunities available to me and I'm sure I'll take advantage of some of them, but most of my summer will be my own. I do have a ton of work to do preparing for the next school year (as all teachers do), but I can set my own hours and working from my couch is way better than being in an office.
It is pretty awesome to get a 2 week Christmas break (which no professional job that I know of gives you) and a week at Thanksgiving, a Spring Break and plenty of random days throughout the year. Most other jobs aren't lucky enough to get that many breaks (and there aren't usually work related obligations during those times). DH and I don't have to choose between visiting my parents or his at Christmas since I get a 2 week break-because of that we have the time to do both. However, in order for DH to get the 2 weeks off he has to save all his vacation days and sick days and comp time for the WHOLE YEAR in order to get that time. I get all the breaks plus I get 12 days a year of sick time. That's a pretty great perk.
I do arrive early and I do stay late as do many of the other teachers I know. There have been plenty of nights where I haven't gotten home until 8:00, however, there are many days when I'm home by 4. DH is an engineer (definitely a professional job) yet there are many mornings he has to be at work by 5 in order to support a build or work with an overseas supplier. He often works 18 hour days-especially when he is on the road and he spends 6 months of every year traveling. He often spends 6 weeks or more away from home-no weekends at home, no evenings at home nothing!
As for the pay I don't make a ton, but I don't make nothing. DH makes WAY more money than me, but in my mind he works harder. In fact, I look around at my "professional" friends and I see that they have less freedom than I do, less time off than I do and they work harder and longer hours.
I don't do a ton of school work at home-at least I try very hard not to. Of course there are days that I have to bring home grading etc. but I use every single minute of my plan period to make sure that I get as much done during work hours as I can.
Teaching is not an easy job by any means, but then again neither is any other job. I feel that some teachers get an inflated sense of self-worth and they don't seem to realize teaching is a job just like any other. I've heard the argument that teaching is more important than other jobs because we affect the future of children. However, if DH messes up a design or misses something during testing he can cause people to DIE. At least I don't have to be 100% perfect or someone might die-suddenly teaching seems easy!
Teachers are attacked in the media, by our government etc. etc. and it's becoming worse. Plenty of other public service jobs are under attack at well (law enforcement springs to mind). The worst part is the fact that a lot of the accusations leveled at teachers are true. It is your job at a teacher to do the best thing for your students at all times, to work hard and to strive to change the public perception of teaching. Is that something unique to teaching?-Kind of.....but it's a responsibility you willingly took on.
Is teaching important? ABSOLUTELY! However, it is a job-all jobs require you to work hard, devote plenty of time to finding success and no one ever gets paid what they think they are work. Teachers-feel lucky that you get to work in a job that gives you paid vacations multiple times a year, time to work at home, shorter work hours (even if you don't get them every day), freedom to do things your way and the opportunity to influence the future of your country. If you are one of those people falling into the trap of complaining about how undervalued you are either do something to make a positive change for the perception of teaching or find a job where you will be valued. Honestly, you chose to go into teaching-you knew what the job entailed before you started and you made the choice-be accountable for your choice.
We as teachers can't keep making ourselves out as martyrs or as people with the worst jobs in the world. There are definitely things wrong with education (but that can be said for any industry), but we are in the unique position to change the future of America. We get to spend each and every day with the funny and unique people that make up the youth of America-even if they are surly sometimes or unmotivated. Teachers need to stop whining and start changing-we don't have it ANY worse than ANYONE else. In fact we have it better than A LOT of people-in fact we have it better than many people who work "fancy jobs". All jobs have hard parts and all jobs have awesome parts (as I always tell my students-there is good and bad in everything).
So teachers: as you're enjoying your summer break take a minute to do something positive for the public perception of teacher. Write a letter to the newspaper talking about all the awesome things your school does, plan a community involvement event, reach out to a former student, leave a Facebook comment on a news website about teacher. At the same time take a minute to think about why you have the BEST job in the world-if you don't think your job is the BEST maybe you should spend your summer researching a career change.