My mom used to exclaim, "This just FROSTS me!" She said it when she was pretty much beside herself with anger or surprise or something like that. Or sometimes she would substitute the word "BURNS" for "FROSTS." She had quite a few little sayings and this one comes to mind today.
Why, you ask? The local news station ran a story about educators being overpaid. The online story has garnered about 200 comments. Every comment that says teachers have "a pretty nice schedule" or "the whole summer off" or "they only work 8 or 9 months out of the year" just...FROSTS/BURNS me.
So I am going to vent. Just a little. I think my hilarious Facebook posts and the other positive words I record here about the amazing children with whom I work testify that I love my chosen profession and all it entails. I also want to say that I don't know much about the downside of other professions. Everyone has it hard. I get that. Nothing is a walk in the park. I haven't BEEN to law school, so I don't know how hard it was to finish and I don't know how much a lawyer deserves. I also understand that I CHOSE my profession, so I shouldn't complain. But I do feel the need to clarify.
I guess it does seem like "a pretty nice schedule." But looks can be deceiving. I think my realtor friend has a pretty nice schedule in that she gets to arrange it. If she needs to go out of town, she can arrange that without penalty. If her mom is in the hospital, she can arrange that. If she's tied up, her partner can show the house for her (without making lesson plans for the substitute). I was a National Park Ranger for a decade of my life and THAT was indeed a pretty nice schedule. I could't believe it was only 40 hours a week! Cut and dried! WOW!! ONLY 40 hours a week! AND...if they needed you to work overtime, they PAID you EXTRA for overtime! Not only that, if you worked past 6:00 p.m., they paid you for this kind little thought called "Night Differential." And if you worked on the Sabbath Day, the federal government gave you even more compensation called "Sunday Differential!" It was a whole new world to think you could actually be "on duty" and "off duty." Wow.
I don't get to arrange my schedule. I don't get to take "a longer lunch today." I don't get a "coffee break." Sometimes I get a recess break, but I don't go to the faculty room to sit down with a beverage and put my feet up, rather, I think to myself, "I have time to make copies/correct papers/email parents/etc." Because here's the thing...when there are children in the room, you're in charge. When you work with adults, I'd venture a guess that the adults are mostly managing themselves. Oh sure, there's Facebook and Candy Crush and other distractions, but adults are usually in charge of themselves even when supervised. Not so with children. Do adult coworkers come up to you and ask for a Band-aid? Do they ask if they can call their mom? Do they ask if they can go to the restroom? Do they tell you they don't get it? I know, I know, in some cases, yes...adults need your attention. But do you gather your adult workers several times a day and say, "Okay, we are going to learn how to do this math thing or science thing or writing thing and first I want you to watch me do it and then we're going to do it together to practice and then you're going to do it on your own." Oh, I'm getting out of control here.
Do you arrange to be at work for free in the evening because it will be such a great experience for your coworkers? Wax Museum=Voluntary Unpaid Overtime. Hope of America=Voluntary Unpaid Overtime. Clear Creek=Voluntary Unpaid Overtime (overnight, no cell service, no shower, no family time, no television...WHAT?!? You don't do that regularly at your workplace?!?). Lesson planning=Voluntary Unpaid Overtime. Correcting papers=Voluntary Unpaid Overtime. If you want to use the whole "salary" argument then why do we have official contract times? Our contract time is 7:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m. daily. But the EXPECTATION is that you put in loads and loads of unpaid overtime.
The whole summer off. No such thing, my friend. Complete lie. Does not exist. The kids get out on the 29th. I'm not free until the 5th. I say "free" but I'm taking 20 books to YELL with me so I'll be reading daily to prepare for my responsibilities in the fall (ahem, that would be DAILY unpaid overtime all summer long). If you could just hear teachers saying things like, "Once the kids are gone, I'll be able to organize my classroom or plan this unit or create this activity or take this class or write this paper or apply for this grant or concentrate on this..." You should really talk to the family members of teachers to see about this whole facade of "whole summer off." They can tell you that their teacher-spouse or teacher-mom never stops preparing, even during the summer. I walk into a Visitor Center Gift Shop and my first thought is, "What can I use to help me be a better teacher? Is there something I should buy for my classroom?"
If teachers get paid enough, then why was I a park ranger for a decade? Why does so-and-so work nights and weekends at Wal-Mart? Why does so-and-so work at Target? Why does so-and-so do hair on the side? Why did it take me until now to purchase my first home? Do you shop at the bread outlet and freeze several loaves ahead? Yes, we stayed at the Zermatt last weekend, but we only had to pay the $30 cleaning fee because we know someone. It was a real treat for us, but it's not like we splurged big time. Otherwise, we wouldn't have gone.
I think of the stay-at-home moms who work so hard without any monetary compensation. I'm not saying my job is the hardest in the world or the worst paying job in the world, I just don't understand why it's so bullied.
So I think I'm done whining for now. My first impulse was to vow to post on Facebook after doing any unpaid overtime for my job, but I will be living without internet access this summer and I really don't think I would have time to post that much--it would get in the way of all my lesson planning and professional development.
Bottom line is...we should all respect what we all do. When I went to the Physical Therapist, I found myself filled with gratitude that someone had studied in order to help a patient like me. Do they run news stories about how dentists are so overpaid? Do they talk about how cushy the job of a realtor is? Do they report about how overpaid lawyers are? No, they seem to just pick on educators. I don't understand it. Just last night I picked up photos from Walgreens ($12.50) for my students' journals. Out of pocket. There is NO budget for that kind of thing. Do you regularly spend money on your job out of pocket? No, you expect "the company" to pay for it. My team decided today that we need to ask each child to bring $1 for the dance festival (so we can have some colorful ribbons), but I don't think I can ask another thing from these families. I will just take care of it, out of pocket. Because, you know, we're so rich and all, living in separate states trying to make ends meet with my husband driving a vehicle that we hope lasts through another summer with 216,000 miles on it.
6 hours ago