Among the various political stuff that’s been in my thoughts lately is this assault on government workers and particularly, teachers. I think teaching is arguably the most important career out there and is also one of the lowest paid professions. I used to be a teacher and I went into that career deciding that if I were to ever own a home or have children it would be absolutely necessary that I found a spouse with a pretty good income. My first teaching job was in 98. I worked at a charter school and made 26K that year. My school was in the inner city district. I had 28 kindergartners in my class, including a girl who was severely autistic. When summer came around I didn’t get a break. Because Mark was in school and we needed the money, I took a full-time job teaching summer camp at a daycare center. The next year I moved to the public school district for a salary increase to 31K. I had 28 second graders, including several with serious behavior problems. It was not uncommon for desks and chairs to go flying across the room on any given day. By the time I left Ohio with 3 years experience my salary was 34K. I worked every summer during those years at that daycare center to subsidize our income while Mark was in school. When we moved to Texas I took a job as a kindergarten teacher. In Texas there are no unions, so my work days were two hours longer and my pay dropped from 34K to 30K.
Teachers don’t teach for the money. They don’t do it for the benefits or the prestige. It is not a predictable job and most definitely not an easy one. Over my years I met some amazing teachers. It is a calling and a passion that people do because they can’t not do it. You do it because the act of guiding others lifts you up and allows you to look past all the bullshit and believe me there is more bullshit than you can imagine.
I am so disappointed in what is going on in the political scene these days. Several of my old co-workers from Columbus, Ohio are posting about the situation on Facebook. People are vilifying teachers and I can’t quite figure out why. Somehow, certain media outlets and groups are managing to make people believe that teaching is somehow some cushy job and teachers are getting more benefits than they deserve. When I moved to Florida I looked into going back to teaching, but I also wanted to have two children. Once I realized that two kids in daycare would cost about $1800 a month I knew that it would take my entire monthly salary to pay for that. Going back to work was out of the question. If going back to teaching was out of the question for me, that leads me to believe owning a home and having children is out of the question for any single teachers out there.
I believe that having an educated population is one of the most important elements of being a competitive society. The US is falling farther and farther behind when it comes to educating its citizens. Oddly, at a time when we need to be making leaps in all areas, we are punishing the very people who are in the trenches educating the next generation so they can make those leaps. And on the flip side of that, if we continue attacking and vilifying the teaching profession who’s going to be brave enough to go into it? Am I crazy to still think we actually NEED teachers?