A few weeks ago, I accidently let myself be ensnared by an anti-teacher troll.
I don’t know what came over me but it quickly became apparent that this dude was not interested in a discussion. I entered the exchange when the troll claimed that teachers get paid for far more hours than they actually work. I pointed out that many teachers take their work home, and work on the weekends. His response? Basically, that teachers need better time management! I reminded him that teachers don’t control their schedules, but it was clearly futile.
What is puzzling to me is how teachers went from being pillars of the community to being pariahs. As much as I miss being a teacher, and teaching, I feel relieved to avoid this hostile climate against teachers. This guy thinks we’re overpaid? You could not pay me enough to be told, day in and day out, that I’m everything that’s wrong with American education today.
What is really a mystery is that all these people bashing teachers, what kind of education did THEY have? Did they all have really horrible teachers from K through 12? I mean, I get that somewhere in all those years, you might have a not-so-good teacher. I had a few GREAT teachers, and the rest were good enough. Isn’t it like this in every occupational field? You have a few superstars, most are good enough and maybe you have a few bad apples. Why do all teachers need to be superstars? Because we’re talking about children here?
Yes, that’s it. We get so emotionally worked up about teachers and schools because we are directly impacting children. Yes, our children deserve great teachers. Yes, bad teachers should be fired. But teachers are human. Not every teacher can be a superstar. That is just reality. Superstar teachers have a special blend of skill and natural charisma. Instead, we should be focusing on competency, a high level of competency. Instead of tearing down our teachers and complaining that they get paid too much, how about building in supports to shore up the potential of new teachers to be great? I had a great teacher education, but I really learned to be a teacher on the ground. Every day that I got up in front of my class, I learned a powerful lesson, lessons big and small. Those lessons began to shape the teacher I could eventually become but unfortunately, I bowed out before I could really apply those lessons. I felt demoralized by an astoundingly ineffective and downright incompetent assistant principal, a lack of disciplinary power and being ill-equipped to deal with the social issues hurled at me by a low-income population rife with gang activity and depressingly dysfunctional families.
I’ve heard that these things don’t matter, that a good teacher can overcome these things. But these things do matter. They matter for the kids, yes, but they also matter for the teachers. Dealing with all these issues that have nothing to do with the actual job of teaching is emotionally draining. I made it to year 7 before burning out. I was three months pregnant, and could not imagine how I was going to balance the emotional task of teaching with the emotional task of mothering. Some women can do it. I am not one of them. I admit that. I also admit that I am fully and totally traumatized by the experience of teaching in New York City, and every time I think about going back to teaching elsewhere, I can’t do it. I get a mental block. (I tried, when we lived in Greenfield, but that was a mistake. I was not ready to go back to work, much less teaching, with a 5 month old baby at home and unable to afford full-time daycare. I lasted two months there.)
And now, watching all this vilification of teachers in the media, online, everywhere, I could never subject myself to that. It’s a shame because I really do love teaching and being a teacher but I’m just not emotionally equipped for dealing with people like that Twitter troll.
That said, this twitter hashtag is awesome. #saidnoteacherever