Teachers Have It Easy

I was pleased to come across this synopsis of Dave Eggers’ new book after the discussion on teaching and public schools.

Some quotes from teachers that Eggers and his co-authors Ninive Clements Calegari and Daniel Moulthrop compiled:

“I spent $3,900 of my own money last year on my classroom. That’s a lot of money. And it’s not anything extravagant. It’s stuff like paper clips and art supplies and paint and things you would assume that the district provides and they don’t. It’s horribly demeaning and I try not to focus on it.”

“My first principal said, ‘If it weren’t for us, the doctors, the lawyers- nobody would be anywhere.’ They don’t realize that. They had to learn to read somewhere.”

“There was a girl I dated for a long time, through high school and into college. In my senior year, I said, ‘I wouldn’t mind maybe going into teaching,’ and she said, ‘Don’t waste your talent on that.’”

“It’s hard, because we all know that when you’re a teacher, the returns are not immediate. Every so often you find little notes, or a kid will send you a postcard. I always joke because now I’ll meet some middle-aged fat guy in the street and he’ll say, ‘Oh, you were my favorite teacher.'”

“The media and the government, they feed on that. They totally do. They say, ‘If you’re a teacher, obviously it’s not about money. I thought you were an angel, I thought you were a saint. You’re a teacher, aren’t you?’ They use that. I felt like there was this outside pressure not to talk about the money. There was this huge green elephant in the room with a dollar sign on it that no one could talk about.”

I once heard Anne Coulter say that teachers teach only out of the goodness of their golden hearts. I nearly threw my plate through the television.

The article at Campus Progress also has a wonderful comparison chart between a day in the life of a high school math teacher and a pharmaceutical sales rep that is far too long to repost, but it is a must-read.

9 comments for “Teachers Have It Easy

  1. sara
    May 17, 2005 at 5:30 pm

    Not totally related, but have you read this crap?

  2. May 17, 2005 at 8:42 pm

    There has recently been a lot of ongoing debate regarding teacher salary in my high school district (district 211 in the northwest Chicago suburbs) – a lot of people are arguing that the teachers are very “overpaid” (when, in fact, their salaries are finally just beginning to match that of, say, the current IT industry) and this is a reason why the cities should not continue to pass education tax levees. I always thought it was awesome that the teachers where I grew up were paid at least semi-fairly and it seemed to be okay with people until recently, I guess.

    I don’t really have any insight on this topic, I just thought I’d mention this passing thought…

  3. May 17, 2005 at 9:37 pm

    The *average* figures for teacher spending I see most often: about $701 out of pocket the first year, and $521 yearly from then on. I’ve heard higher figures, but can’t find them right now . . .

    Other pet peeve:
    The idea that teachers work from 8 to 3. That’s like saying actors work from the time the curtain rises to the time they take their bows . . . . And that long summer vacation, taking courses in order to keep up with requirements/do a better job, teaching summer school, etc. . .

  4. May 17, 2005 at 10:48 pm

    …”They had to learn to read somewhere.”

    Actually, it’s a fact that literacy rates were higher in the U.S. before compulsory schooling became the norm. Check out John Taylor Gatto’s An Underground History of American Education (particularly ch. 3)

    The notion that somehow, without the particular structure of forced, modern schooling, kids wouldn’t learn to read is just untrue.

  5. May 18, 2005 at 12:14 am

    Hum. Well, I was reading “TV Guide” at age 2. Perhaps I was a freak. But I needed a teacher to set me straight and get me reading something decent.

    Reading everything at Campus Progress made me want to cry. I used to teach, and I had to leave. I wanted to eat. My heart wasn’t golden enough to stay with the kids. Now, I have a great gig, and I get paid more for doing less. It’s nice. But there’s only so much a person can give up for students.

  6. May 18, 2005 at 12:50 am

    Emily, I’m not entirely impressed with Gatto’s body of work. I agree with his many of his criticisms, but not with his conclusions.

    The vast majority of kids in the U.S. learn their basic educational skills in public schools. Yes, the schools have their problems, but is the solution to get rid of them altogether? Is this really viable? I think Gatto’s calls for abandoning the education system altogether are dangerous. I’m far more inclined to endorse Derrick Jensen’s methods of reforming within the system, in the classroom, that he talks about in “Walking on Water.”

    Excellent read for anyone looking at progressive ed, by the way.

    Also, have you read my thingie on the Bible wars and compulsory schooling? (Sorry, too tired and ill to be precise here.) It’s only tangentially related, but considering your studies right now, you might be interested.

    One last tangent: I’ve been reading your ed blog and it’s incredibly thought-provoking. Are you going to keep it up past the end of the course?

  7. AndiF
    May 18, 2005 at 7:44 am

    I’m channeling my husband who has been teaching for 30 years (some 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades but mostly 6th grade). He says he sticks with teaching not because he’s some altruistic saint but because he’s self-centered. Here’s his thinking:

    . He always has the relief that every school year will end. Unlike just about every other job, all teachers know that no matter how bad the year has gone and how much you can’t stand some of the kids, you know you are going to escape. Plus, you always have the hope of a better year coming.

    . When kids love a teacher, it lasts a long time. Students send him invitations to high school and college graduations, wedding invitations, baby announcements, and many, many letters telling him what a great teacher he was and how much difference he made in their lives.

    . The endorphin rush when you see (and yes, it can be visible) a student learn what you are teaching is fantastic.

    . In the classroom, no one and nothing — not the principal, not the parent, not NCLB, not state guidelines — can come between you and a student. You don’t always reach a student but no one can stop you from trying. In that sense, teaching is the most autonomous job in the world.

    Now I will unchannel and tell you that I think that while this is all true I also think that he stays a teacher because he loves being with kids. It’s so bad that at the end of every school year, he actually goes through a couple of cranky weeks of ‘kiddy withdrawal’.

  8. May 18, 2005 at 9:01 am

    I’m not particularly impressed by stats that show that literacy rates went down after compulsory education was adopted. There’s very little reason to think those two things were connected, because there was other stuff going on at the same time, such as the advent of mass immigration from places with very low rates of literacy and no real tradition of sending non-elite children to school.

  9. May 18, 2005 at 8:25 pm

    Gatto is Gatto. Best in small doses.
    Those literacy stats are *extremely* suspicious, and Sally gives some plausable reasons why. I won’t completely dismiss them as wrong, but I think this calls for careful examination of who they were measuring for what and how.

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