First of all, I wasn’t given the day off of school to go, as so many of my peers were. That’s fine; if a district chose to give teachers the freedom to stand up to the injustices we are being served as public educators, by all means! Go! Be merry! Yell a little for me! However, testing approaches, and let’s be honest: making substitute plans is WAY harder than just staying and teaching.
Therefore, I was at school all day today. We began Julius Caesar, we continued on in Romeo and Juliet, and we even analyzed poetry (and they did it all by themselves which was amazing). I continued to teach for one reason and one reason only:
I know many critics who will criticize teachers who took the day off and school districts that had no school. I know many critics who will look down on teachers and administrations such as myself and mine for staying at school. “Aren’t you just doing what they want you to do, but with no benefit for yourself? They don’t have to change if you’re willing to keep working for nothing!” My kids even asked me, “Mrs. Mac, if we’re so important, why didn’t you go?”
And again I’ll answer: it’s because of you.
I knew coming into this job that it is thankless, it is under-paid, and the hours are well, let’s put it nicely, deplorable at best. I didn’t decide to teach because I wanted to be famous. I didn’t decide to teach because I get so much freaking support from the government and from parents. I didn’t decide to do it because every day the kids smell like roses and give me perfect answers. I did it because I was led to do it. It is my calling. I love literature. I love that literature lets us “know that we are not alone” (Vonnegut). I love kids because they’re sad, and silly, and crazy, and dumb, and sweet, and mean, and ugly, and driven, and lazy, and for every other reason that Christ loves me.
That being said… I am mad. I am discouraged. I am ashamed. I am hopeful. I am upset. We. Need. Change. But it doesn’t start and stop with salary, or testing, or whether or not I can conveniently pay my union dues. It starts at the heart of all of those problems.
I wouldn’t need to be paid more if kids felt like they had a buy-in, if parents supported me at home.
I wouldn’t need to be worried about testing if kids if the previous reason was true.
I wouldn’t need to pay my stupid union dues (which I am only paying in case I get sued by some crazy) if the following two reasons were true.
I’m not saying the government is absolved from its problems and discrepancies, and I’m not saying that it’s any ONE PERSON’S FAULT. I’m not even saying that these problems can be fixed! What I am saying is that there is a lot of finger pointing. There are MANY problems. Perhaps the presence of my peers on the Hill today is going to make a big impact on this year’s legislation. Perhaps my presence could have been helpful today. What I do know for certain is that my daily presence with these stinky, silly, smart kids IS making a difference. So what if I don’t have all the books I need? So what if we don’t have laptops/computer access? So what if we’re a little behind because we spent so much time on a problem they couldn’t work out?
Teachers make a difference every. single. day. In their classrooms. Doing life with their kids. We don’t just teach standards (which are arbitrary at best). We don’t just teach math and science and English. We teach kindness, patience, humanity, love. We teach kids that there are people who can be counted on. We teach them how to be those people. And we don’t do that because this job pays well, or because we might be famous, or because we get so much darn appreciation that we don’t know what to do with it… We do it because we love our kids; we love our jobs.
We may be taken advantage of by the government, by students, by parents, by the media, by the world. But at the end of the day, good educators don’t do it for their approval. They do it because it’s the right thing to do.
That is my daily testimony, and I hope that today’s rally proves that, in some small way, that’s all good educators want. We want to be supported. We don’t want to ALWAYS be the bad guy. Because if being “bad” means making kids do the RIGHT thing, I never wanna be right.
God bless teachers, God bless students, and God bless you for making it through this entire rant…