Back to School

My wife reports back to work today.  She is a fourth grade teacher.  She is exceptionally good at what she does.  She reports back to work today as the incumbent teacher of the year in her school district here in Texas.  I can honestly say that this summer she actually took time off.  She went to visit family in Massachusetts and did not take school work with her.  This is rare for her, even over the summer.  This is probably why she’s so good at her job.

I caught a facebook status re-post meme going around this morning and actually re-posted it. I very rarely do that type of thing. This one was about teachers. This one was about my wife.

A teacher somewhere in your neighborhood is preparing lessons to teach your children. In the minute it takes you to read this, teachers all over the world are using their “free time,” and often investing their own money for your child’s literacy, prosperity and future. Re-post if you are a teacher, love a teacher, or appreciate a teacher.

It amazes me that some people still think teachers have it “easy.”  That teachers have a short work day and a lot of vacation time and cushy benefits and big salaries.  Ignorance.  Most teachers who do their jobs well go in early, stay late and have to bring their work home every night and work every week-end. Summer vacation isn’t a vacation it is a planning and professional development period. While it is true that some teachers make decent salaries, the teachers at the beginning of their careers do not make anywhere near the money they should and many good ones burn out long before they should and our society loses many good people from a place they are sorely needed.

Garret Keizer, a writer and contributing editor at Harper’s Magazine has an essay in the current issues of Harper’s called “Getting Schooled: The Re-education of an American Teacher.”  He describes going back to the classroom at the age of 57 after many years away to fill a slot teaching English at the local high school in Vermont.  He describes the school, its students and his workload.  He is in a rather average Vermont school, with a wonderful, supportive staff and great students who are kind to him and hold the doors open for him.  His classes average twenty students, he has three different sections to prep out of five classes taught and has an entire 45 minutes for lunch. To do his job reasonably well, he had to go in early, work late and “had little of what is generally called a life.”  I don’t want to make a martyr out of him, my wife or other teachers in the sense that there aren’t a lot of other people who also exhausted by their work and their lives, but I want to point out that teachers are by no means exempt.  Keizer says:

My point here is that even under ideal circumstances, public school teaching is one of the hardest jobs a person can do. Most sensible people know that. Anyone who claims not to know that is either a scoundrel or a nincompoop; or, to put it another way, a typical expert on everything that’s wrong with American public education and the often damaged children that it serves (pg 34).

As teachers head back to the classroom this fall, let’s all try to remember to see their work through their eyes, not ours, and especially not through the eyes of the political spin machine.

(I could not link to the article from Harper’s as it is only available to subscribers and only in pdf  format.)

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