In the year since I started this blog, I’ve never ranted about politics. Seriously, never. So I’m going to break my own rule about discussing politics and have my rant. If I offend, sorry about that. It’s not my intention to offend.
But, seriously, amidst all the budget cuts, I can’t help but post about the cuts to education.
I know, if I manage to offend anyone, that the first thing someone will say is, “Just be thankful you have a job.”
But here’s the thing… In my profession, I’m already underpaid. Unlike most teachers, I could go work private sector and make more money, and I can’t tell you how often I’ve been tempted to do just that. I work where I do because I love the kids, and I thought, by working in the schools, I could make a difference. And, IMHO, I’ve done just that. I’ve taken nonverbal kids and taught them to communicate. I always used to joke, “Oh, no one ‘s gonna die if they don’t get speech.” But you know what? That’s not true. Being able to communicate wants and needs is a basic human right. Being able to communicate thoughts and ideas, to be able to express what lies in your heart, is at the core of what it is to be human. To give a voice to a person who doesn’t have one is not only noble, it’s a gift.
So don’t tell me I haven’t saved a life. I may not have performed CPR, I may not be revered the way a doctor is, but in my own way, I have saved a life. When you meet a speech pathologist, thank her (or him, but mostly her) for the gift she’s given to the people she works with. She’s given them the ability to communicate. Provided them with the ability to express that spark that makes us human.
But, apparently, I’m not worth the money they’re paying me. I should be grateful they’ve decided to pay me at all, I suppose. I’ve even heard people–being interviewed by CNN, no less–say that the best teachers would do it for free, simply for the love of doing it.
And I wanted to vomit, because that, my friends, is bullshit.
It’s bullshit because only the independently wealthy have the wherewithal to work for free. I love what I do, but I need to feed my kids too. People who work for free are called volunteers. I went to school for seven years to do what I do, and not just anyone can do it. I am not a volunteer.
Would you get up and go to work every day if you didn’t get some sort of monetary reward for it? Most of us wouldn’t.
I love my job, and I’m glad I have one. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be paid for it.
Teaching, like many professions that are dominated by women, is undervalued. So many people think that because they went to fifth grade, they can teach fifth grade. What people don’t understand is that teaching is hard. It’s harder than the coursework. It’s working long after your contract time. I don’t know a single teacher who works 9-3 (in fact, we’re contracted for an hour beyond that), and I don’t know a single teacher who doesn’t come in over vacations, or correct papers at night, or work long hours planning. We get paid for seven hours, but I can guarantee you, the children we serve get far more of our time.
When the economy was great, construction workers weren’t volunteering their time to educate children. No, they were out making more money. I didn’t see the people who were making money hand over fist offering teachers raises, either. In point of fact, my mother, back in 1973 (the last time she subbed), made only ten dollars less per day than what a sub does in 2011. In my eight years in district, during the time the state was flush with money and had a surplus, teachers got one four percent raise, spread out over two years. So, no, don’t cut our pay. We have to make a living too.
And, weird, laying off teachers doesn’t help unemployment rates. The private sector doesn’t create more jobs to stimulate the economy because a whole passel of teachers got laid off or had their pay cut. In fact, laid off teachers don’t spend money. And teachers who take a ten percent pay cut spend ten percent less.
I think that means the private sector suffers too.
Teachers didn’t mess up the budget. Teachers didn’t cause the economy to tank. And when the politicians scream about no new taxes, what do they really think a pay cut is for teachers? Essentially, my friends, it’s an income tax only teachers have to pay.
Teaching is a noble profession. It’s a calling as much as being a doctor or a pastor or a nurse is (another undervalued profession, IMHO) is. It’s a passion and a way of life. Without teachers, there would be no doctors or lawyers, no nurses, police officers, businessmen or politicians. There’s not a single profession today that isn’t dependent on teachers.
Well, maybe professional panhandler isn’t, but someone must have taught him to write “Will work for food.”