The Death of Education
There is a storm of opinions concerning education in Oklahoma. I’m sure this is true for other states as well. Teachers and education are so poorly funded that many of the qualified move to other states for better pay, leave education completely or take jobs which offer more security. Truthfully, most college students don’t major in education with the thought of becoming rich. Teachers are destined to serve, to create, to shape lives for the future. It’s what we do. I know. I was a teacher for almost 35 years.
What troubles me now, are all the comments on social media, television and other means of public forms, denouncing how selfish and materialistic teachers are to ask for better pay. They say they signed a contract and need to just suck it up. The one I especially like is the one about a three-month vacation. Although I agree that a yearly contract signed by a teacher should be honored, I also believe there is nothing wrong with trying to improve contracts for the future. Some of these teachers want better supplies, enough chairs for their students, (some Oklahoma classrooms have 38 students) better libraries, and better community outreach projects. And now there is the school safety factor which affects students and teachers.
And that three-month vacation thing? I spent the first two weeks staring into space and taking a nap because of the stress which some researchers have compared to battle fatigue.
I loved being a teacher. I was one of those crazy people who couldn’t wait to get to work each morning and begin opening up a new page for my students. School dismissed at 3:15 but I rarely got home before 4:30 and most nights I graded papers until bedtime. Each night I cooked dinner, did a load of laundry, helped my own children with homework and with any luck, got to have a conversation with my husband.
I realized when my children were in upper elementary school, I needed to further my education. My husband was a mine engineer and sometimes that proved to be a dangerous occupation. (Now it is also said about education.) I knew if something happened to our primary income, my little family would have a hard time making ends meet.
Summers became a time where I took more college classes to help me move across on the pay scale. I packed my kids up and drove three hours to my parents and went to a nearby college. They watched my kids while I tried to improve my skills. It was expensive and I never got reimbursed for taking those classes. The classes often cost me around a thousand dollars which included books and other expenses. My increase in pay for the improvement usually was around four hundred dollars. Later I was able to take classes forty miles from home but needed to attend them after I’d worked all day.
In my thirty-five years of teaching, I never made more than $42,000 before taxes. That usually included extra tutoring, after school programs funded by a grant or a scholarship to take a special class like the one I took on mining for the class room or space education. Later, with Masters of Education degree in hand, I was able to work part-time at a junior college during the summer. My husband used to say he worked so I could teach. One year I estimated I’d spent two thousand dollars to add to my classroom, take a class or buy books to study for in-school teacher workshops.
Reasons I Loved Teaching
1. I could go to work with my children.
2. I had the same days off as my children.
4. Sweet children who loved to learn.
5. Part of a community most never know.
6. Rewarding to see children discover themselves.
7. Never stop learning.
8. Opens doors. I became a Solar System Ambassador for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (no pay) and I loved it.
9. Can design after school programs to inspire students.
10. Feeling of accomplishment.
Reasons I Would Not Teach Today
1. Parents feel as if teachers should raise their child.
2. Students have a feeling of entitlement.
3. Pay is always frozen for teachers and supplies.
4. Continued education is rarely rewarded or funded by school districts.
5. Mental health issues are increasing without proper attention.
6. Increased class size without help or supplies. There is no way a teacher can properly teach thirty students with thirty different socio-economic backgrounds, IQs, motivation, behavior issues and parental dynamics. Would you expect a physician to treat a seven-year-old with an ear infection the same as a sixty-year-old woman with a heart condition? That is what we ask teachers to do.
7. Complaints by bossy parents who think of us as babysitters.
8. Parents who ignore teacher concerns, notes, emails and conferences because they are too busy or just not interested.
9. Parents who think they know more than the teacher. I wrote a suspense novel on a mine rescue team. I did a great deal of research to make it sound authentic. But my mine engineer husband would be the first one to tell you, he would not want his safety in my hands, a thousand feet underground.
10. Too much state interference. They’ve removed the teachable moment and replaced it with the end of year test preparation. Practice does not always make perfect.
Take a breath and look at the big picture when it comes to education. It is not black or white. We need to adjust the way we look at education and the ones who guide our children. More and more parents are deciding to home school their children. There was a time I didn’t understand this concept. Now I’m thinking a whole new way because of the death of what once was a magnificent world of exploring what education had to offer.