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Slice of Life 2013

Slice of Life 2013 Day 11: The Cost of Teaching

on March 11, 2013

Slice of Life 2013 Day 11: The Cost of Teaching
I’m participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge, hosted by Stacey Shubitz and Ruth Ayres at Two Writing Teachers

Slice of Life

Scrolling through my twitter feed last night I stumbled upon this post by a young teacher named Beth. I don’t know Beth personally, but I have enjoyed reading her blog and can tell from her posts that she is a dedicated teacher, one who is devoted to practicing what she preaches and giving her students her best.

In her post she explains her decision to leave her teaching position at the end of the year, and the possibility that she might leave teaching altogether. It made me sad but I could completely understand her reasons for leaving.

One of my close colleagues and I always joke about how we long for “Summer Gail” and “Summer Marsha” to come back to life. We are referring to ourselves, of course, and how we seem to come alive once school ends for the year. We are more relaxed, happier, and look ten years younger (or we might just like to think we do!).

We can breathe again.

Don’t get me wrong. We both love what we do and enjoy (for the most part) the challenges of teaching middle schoolers. It’s just that the job has become so much more than anything we could have imagined. From August till June, we are consumed by our work. No matter how hard or long you work, this is a job that is never “over” until the last day of school (and even then you have end- of- year close-out to tackle).

The challenges of teaching in 2013 are great. We are attempting to integrate the new common core standards, our students are coming to us several grade levels behind, many don’t speak English, some are homeless, and parents are often too stressed to give the support from home that students need to be successful. Oh, and did I mention that we haven’t seen a pay raise in over five years?

In spite of that, we manage to come back every day and give our students the best we can offer them because we love what we do and we care deeply about the students we teach.

There was a time when teaching was considered a noble profession, and teachers were treated with the utmost respect.

Not so anymore.

Like Beth said in her post, “Any sort of dignity or professional image teachers used to have has been besmirched by politics and popular media who only portray teachers as incompetent and greedy.”

That’s what gets me.

Just last week, a teacher in our school sent out an email alerting us to the latest news story on the state of teaching in North Carolina, now 44th in the nation for teacher pay. But it wasn’t the article that upset me. I already knew where we stood compared to other states.

No, it was the words of people in our community who took the time to comment on the article.(Scroll down and check out the comments section. ) Yes, there are a few teacher supporters, but the majority of the comments are extremely negative, demoralizing, and insulting. I realize this is not news, but every time I get sucked into reading one of these articles and then the onslaught of negative comments about teachers or the teaching profession, I find myself swirling the drain.

Why do such a difficult job when it doesn’t seem to be valued by our society?

Beth, I don’t have answers for you but I do empathize with your position. Our society needs teachers like you to share your love of learning with our children. If you do decide to leave teaching, it will truly be our loss.

But you do deserve to have a life, too. Only you can decide what’s best for you and your circumstances. I pray that you will find the answers you are looking for and that you will be at peace with your decisions.

What is the cost of teaching in America today?

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12 responses to “Slice of Life 2013 Day 11: The Cost of Teaching

  1. Your post highlights the difficulties facing educators today. Making connections with other teachers for support can help teachers feel less isolated.

  2. mtsedwards says:

    Oh. I have no words. I have only feelings. And empathy. And rage. And loss.

    I love my profession. And yes, I think of it as a profession, not a job. I fell into this gig fifteen years ago, thinking I’d bide my time until something better came along, and I never fell out. It’s a calling and I can’t imagine doing anything else, but the hum and drum and sturm und drang and daily minutiae do get me down. Throwing in society and the uninformed in the mix just compounds the negativity exponentially. Summer Me, indeed. Wonder when the pendulum will swing in our favor again…

  3. Alan says:

    Excellent!!

  4. Dina says:

    Teaching is hard. There are many who have NO CLUE just what this job entails. There are many who think they know and want nothing to do with it. I have to remind myself that teaching is not a job, it is a calling. It is not meant for everyone. I am blessed to have been called into this profession. Please be encouraged that people’s opinions are just that…opinions. We have a valuable role in the lives of children. Keep pressing on!

    • Gail Stevens says:

      Thanks! I agree that teaching is a calling. That’s what sustains me.

      It’s just plain hard sometimes…

  5. The real expense is being paid by our children and those of us trying so hard to do right by them.

  6. Paul says:

    I think the wisest course is to pay no heed to what others say, or what society thinks. Focus on working hard and acting with utmost nobility when it comes to the children we work with, and the outside noise (which I agree can be disheartening) fades into the background. The power of our convictions as educators, and the force of will we put behind our convictions, will always win the day.

    When we say teaching is a calling, I think we mean that it’s nearly impossible to do well, and as a result requires tremendous sacrifice for uncertain, tentative, and often unknown results. It requires faith, and that faith is a bedrock requirement. Block out the naysayers and keep the faith — but if you don’t share the faith, best to be honest about that and move on to something that will bring you greater fulfillment. No shame in that whatsoever; quite the contrary! It’s important to know who you are and what you’re willing to do. Because as your post aptly points out, this job ain’t getting easier any time soon! 🙂

    • Gail Stevens says:

      I agree, Paul, with your statement “I think the wisest course is to pay no heed to what others say, or what society thinks. Focus on working hard and acting with utmost nobility when it comes to the children we work with, and the outside noise (which I agree can be disheartening) fades into the background.”

      Most days that is fairly easy to do as I’m too busy to hear the noise out there (*smile*)

      It’s just that every now and then I let my guard down and those insidious comments find a way to slip in and stir up my doubts.

      I am a teacher because it is what I was created to do. That sustains me.

      Reminding myself why I do this work and the encouragement and support from teachers like you and others out there who inspire me, is what keeps me going.

      Thank you!

  7. My comments will just echo what others have said. I can only add that the answer to your question: “Why do such a difficult job when it doesn’t seem to be valued by society?” – We do it because we know its value even if others don’t.
    Having said that, I must admit that while I’m on Spring Break this week, I am fighting myself to NOT spend it all working. I have so much to do for work that it would be easy to spend my all of my vacation time working.

    • Gail says:

      You are right, Rhonda. I do value what we do, it’s just that sometimes it all gets to be too much (e.g. especially when we have two weeks until Spring Break and the kids are off the wall!), and I have to question why I do what I do.

      Please take time for yourself this week so that you can “fill you cup” before you return to the classroom. Our breaks are so vital to our longterm survival!

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