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Confessions of a Greedy Teacher March 4, 2011

Posted by alwaysjan in Teaching.
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I’m  sitting on my fat ass eating bonbons as I write this. Er, make that sitting “crisscross applesauce.” You see, as a teacher I’m held to a higher moral standard. That’s why Natalie Munroe, the Philadelphia English teacher, who blogged that her students were “unmotivated” “rude” and “dressed like streetwalkers” was suspended. Okay, she said more than that, but it was all so well written that it’s hard to imagine why so many people got their undies in a bunch. Who’s that elephant sitting in the room?  Oh, that would be The Truth. When I heard she came up with some alternate report card comments, I expected, “Shallow End of the Gene Pool” or “Future fodder for America’s Most Wanted.” But she took the high road. She of little imagination.

Whatever is wrong with society – blame it on those greedy teachers. Yeah, that’s why I drive a five-year-old Honda – the official Teacher Car. Today I actually sprang for a Lean Cuisine (Don’t ever nuke anything that is supposedly “beef”), instead of my usual instant oatmeal with a Coke Zero. You haven’t experienced fine dining till you’ve eaten oatmeal with a spork while waiting to run copies before picking up your class. Throw in a rainy day and that’s proof positive that there is Hell on Earth.

And what’s all this talk this a three-month summer vacation? Last year I got out June 23rd. Though school started again in mid-September (after three unpaid furlough days), teachers were back at school the last week of August setting up their classrooms. Nine blissful weeks off with no pay. That’s as good as it gets.

In an interview with protestors in Madison, Wisconsin, one woman said, “I’m here because although I hated school, I loved my teachers.” I wanted to give her a virtual hug but worried about sexual harassment charges.

Jon Stewart tried to bolster the sagging spirits of beleaguered teachers recently with a pep talk on Camera 3. His hilarious solution to combat those “greedy teachers” who are destroying America can be seen on The Daily Show.com .  (Type Message for Teachers into Search to view Crisis in Dairyland – Message for Teachers from the Feb. 28th show.)

As teachers, we are expected to be all things to all people. I believe our brains should be studied along with those of psychopaths to find out what motivates us to do a job that requires us to move mountains while having our hands tied behind our backs by regulations, paperwork, and No Child Left Behind (or only a few children left behind, and hopefully one of them is not yours).

This morning I read about the 12-year-old who killed his parents in Colorado and wounded his siblings. My first thought was, “Well, who was HIS teacher? String ’em up!  Who knows how to tie a hangman’s knot?”  But it turned out he was homeschooled. Otherwise there would be yet another teacher with blood or Vis-a-Vis marker stains on their hands.

Another mother was arrested after her dead son was found (still warm) in an oven. Her sister asked that people not rush to judgement because, “She was a great mother.” The key word is “was.” If this poor child hadn’t died, he’d soon be enrolled in a public school near you. And some teacher would be expected to “turn him around” (even though mom’s phone had been disconnected and even though she didn’t show up for a Parent-Teacher Conference that the teacher rescheduled three times for her convenience). What’s wrong with this picture?

I started a list of all the hats that teachers wear during any given day as an homage to Dr. Seuss’ The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, but 500 wasn’t enough.  Besides, wearing all of those hats just increases the likelihood of an outbreak of lice.

Ahhh, just another day in Paradise. Pass me another bonbon, won’t you?

Photo Credit:  To buy a Miracle Worker mug for that teacher in your life, click here.

Comments»

1. Anne @ The Frump Factor - March 4, 2011

Great post. Thanks, from weary teachers everywhere.

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2. Catherine Sherman - March 4, 2011

I know how hard you work and what great results you get! There should be a purple heart for teachers, and definitely Nobel prizes. In all of the latest hubbub about teachers, very little has been said about the massive failure of the parents in this country. Teachers truly are expected to be miracle workers, but what can you do when the parents — as the first teachers — have gone AWOL?

Cathy followed up her comment with an email that I thought said so much. She gave me permission to add it to her comment. Thanks! Jan

My mother was a teacher, so I don’t know how other children were raised, so I may be expecting too much from parents. I do think there is not enough emphasis on what parents should be doing with their children, that children should come first over watching Survivor or other pleasurable pursuits. That knowledge is power! And that knowledge is NOT just what Charlie Sheen is saying and who wore what to the Oscars.

My mother taught me to read and tutored all six of us. Two of my siblings had some schooling difficulties, and even with my mother’s tutoring they were not great students. Later, they did come round and both graduated from college, although later in life. I’m not as good a parent as my own parents were, and I only have two children. Strangely, I think that because our parents’ generation produced the baby boomers, they are somewhat to blame for our laxness and self-indulgence. We rebelled against the routine and the rigor. We didn’t suffer the Great Depression, which our parents’ generation endured and worried about and tried to prepare against happening again. We think the party can go on forever

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3. K.M - March 4, 2011

Seriously….we have all been hearing the teacher boo-hoo story for a long time now. Put the cross down already because it isnt changing anytime soon and join the rest of us who are over worked, under paid and doing thankless work. Not sure how I got on this blog list and so sorry to all the people who are going to be horrified that I just said what a lot of people have been thinking.

K.M. – I’m not sure how I got on this blog list? If you were my students, I’d be playing the world’s saddest song on the world’s tiniest violin for your misfortune. Yes, many people are overworked, underpaid, and do thankless work. But teachers are expected to produce the next generation of literate citizens ready to take on real-world challenges. Our “products” are children. If we’re going to shortchange someone, let it not be our kids. It doesn’t matter if students come from homes where their parents are drug addicts, illiterate, incarcerated, or are child abusers. (How many child abuse reports have you had to fill out recently?), ultimately, teachers are expected to whip them into shape – to compensate for poor and often negligent, even abusive parenting. I will ultimately “own” my students’ scores, and there’s talk of merit pay based on these. FYI I teach public school and would never think of carrying a cross. Jan

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Catherine Sherman - March 5, 2011

I am appalled that this discussion about union salaries and benefits has become a slam fest about whether teachers are worth their pay. A great teacher is worth his or her weight in gold. We should be discussing how the best teachers can be compensated and perhaps how to weed out the ones who are just biding their time until retirement. I’m particularly angry with the media, which has produced extremely shallow reporting. I’ve read a HUGE amount of news articles and commentary about this issue from a broad range of the political spectrum, and very few have really addressed what a teachers’ union does. Like any group, a union can get out of control, but let’s look at both the good and the bad. Several of my friends and family members are teachers (you included, Jan, of course!) A union will help you know what your benefits and rights are. Let’s not forget that most teachers are women, and for years they were not taken seriously as employees nor well compensated. I can understand how the benefits package has gotten out of control, because no one really knows how much that will cost and frankly it’s easier to pass that fiscal headache onto someone in the future. I’m not sure I understand what collective bargaining really is, except to one side it’s really, really horrible (Satan’s handmaiden), and to the other side it’s a divine right. Jimmy Carter ended collective bargaining for federal employees, perhaps because workplace rules already took care of the issues, so losing it might not be the end of the world. But few articles have explained this.

In Wisconsin, the teachers union has created its own health insurance company, the WEA Trust. Apparently, this is one of the main bones of contention in the WIsconsin fight, but almost nothing has appeared in the national news.

This is what I found out about it.
In the majority of districts around the state, WEAC (Wisconsin Teachers Union) negotiators have used that (collective bargaining)law to pressure local school boards into purchasing coverage from WEA Trust, an insurance company established by and closely associated with the union.

WEA Trust offers very comprehensive health coverage, at a very high cost to schools. Most of the districts with the most expensive health premiums in the state are clients of WEA Trust. Most of the districts with the lowest premiums do business with other insurance carriers.

A few dozen districts have managed to dump WEA Trust insurance over the past few years, despite the protests of teachers and their union. Officials from many of those districts say they managed to save at least six figures their first year with a different carrier, and maintained steady rates in subsequent years, while still offering quality health coverage to employees.

Officials from other districts say they’re also eager to dump WEA Trust coverage, but need their employees’ anonymous claim histories from WEA Trust to share with other bidders. Several say they have never requested that information because they were told WEA Trust would punish them by pulling them out of local insurance pools, resulting in skyrocketing premiums.

Today many Wisconsin school boards consider themselves stuck with expensive WEA Trust health coverage, until state law is altered to take the identity of the insurance carrier off the collective bargaining table. Gov. Scott Walker’s current legislative proposal would do just that, giving school boards the opportunity to freely shop for insurance and save millions of tax dollars for instructional purposes.

In fact, Gov. Walker recently cited WEA Trust as the #1 reason for collective bargaining reform.”

The WEA Trust has at least 12 administrators who make six figure salaries. I couldn’t find any arguments that could justify why school districts should pay so much more for WEA Trust policies. Obviously, the money that goes to paying extra for WEA Trust could be going to teachers’ salaries and other school needs.

Sorry to make this so long, but the point I’m trying to make is that the real issues are not being discussed, instead we get the media and the different political groups creating discord and pitting one group against the other.

Why didn’t in our current administration, as well as our past one, penalize the Wall Streeters, for example, when they came up short for their very, very bad and even felonious financial decisions that left this country is such bad shape? Why does Goldman Sachs etc. get to pillage our pockets, while the rest of us have to scramble with one another for pennies? That’s because Wall Street is bankrolling the politicians. The White House is a revolving door for Goldman Sachs etc. people and has been whether the president has an R or a D after his name. I don’t understand why people aren’t banging drums in droves on Wall Street. (See “Inside Job.”)

A metaphor I thought of for all of this blaming is that we are peons who are all the third-class passengers on the Titanic. We are fighting over the deck chairs as the ship goes down and the chosen few are climbing onto the lifeboats with their government bailouts.

Cathy – You can’t take the reporter out of the…:) Thanks for all of the background information about the situation in Wisconsin. We’ve got a lot of teachers in my district who are less than ecstatic about being in a union, but when push comes to shove, we look to the union for protection against vindictive administrators. Collective bargaining was used to negotiate the terms of our latest contract. Even so, nearly half of the salary bump I received last year for earning my master’s degree now goes to pay the newly negotiated out-of-pocket health care expenses.

I agree that the architects of the bank/financial meltdown on Wall Street have walked away unscathed. Bernie Madoff got jail time while so many other CEOs pocketed bonuses. I believe the rest of us have tickets in steerage.:( Jan

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Catherine Sherman - March 6, 2011
4. Tim Bradley - March 4, 2011

No bon bon left behind. Another great, provocative post.

Tim – What can I say, it was a long day when I wrote this. Another teacher got reamed for addressing the issues of chronic theft in her classroom with students. Evidently, Denial IS a river in Egypt. Hey, you got a green avatar – cool! Jan

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5. Hermite - March 5, 2011

Dear, dear Jan. Just wanted to let you know I stand in solidarity with the teachers.

Again, thank you for all that you do.

Hermite – Thank you from the teachers of the world. Anyone who teaches, especially in an urban classroom, can tell you that the “3 Rs – Reading, Writing and ‘rithmetic” have taken a back seat to the “3 Ps – Poverty and Poor Parenting.”

After I worked as a waitress, I realized how difficult it was to do THAT job. If only those who dismiss the increasing demands that teachers face could walk in our sensible shoes, Again, thank you! Jan

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6. lilikaofthelake - April 17, 2011

Your brilliant and I love to think of you molding little hearts and minds. The thought actually gives me hope that there will be a future, even if we will all be wearing Kevlar jump suits and eating food like substances that either wind us up or relax us into submission. I have hope that the answer is with some ten year old out here in the midwest that has a vision.

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