Last weekend I traveled to a pub with a friend to meet up with some of her old friends, and immediately engaged in some conversation with one of the attenders who had clearly had a few prior to our arrival. When he found out I was a teacher of yet another district with contract agreement woes, he began an assault on the teaching profession, informing me that most teachers make $80,000 a year, and that when a teacher gets his/her masters, he/she immediately makes $60,000 a year. "Nope, don't make $80,000...Nope, don't even make $60,000 with my masters," I attempted to calmly interject as he went on telling me how teachers have it made, and ultimately spewed out the core issue of the problem (as an ED teacher, I've become quite versed at getting past all the verbal vomit to arrive at the real problem) which was he is miserable in his current job in finance. I knew there was no point in attempting to defend the long hours, emotional stress, parental strife, etc. because the guy had "ALL ABOUT ME" scrolling across his forehead at that moment. So, I went for my little back pocket trick reserved for just such moments when friends or acquaintances start whining about teachers' summer breaks and 3:30 PM releases: "So, why don't YOU become a teacher?"
My conversation partner stumbled for a second before sharing that he had actually thought about just that, becoming a professor or something, but nothing below seniors in high school. If I had been a real snot, I would have prodded him as to why he wouldn't be able to teach younger children until he submitted to the fact that teaching is a difficult job that deserves some rewards.
As it was, I don't think I would have time, because seconds later others at the table had joined in on the mob action to whip the teacher. "Blah blah blah teachers make over $100,000 a year...if they're a gym teacher they don't even do anything...so on, so on." I was starting to get a bit heated at this point, but I managed to calmly throw out that conversation ending, "So become a teacher if it sounds so good!" Finally, I managed the victory of silencing the conversation after the second round.
But I was steaming for several minutes after the whole exchange, and I had to admit that my pride had been hurt just a smidgeon. While I feel very blessed by my salary, I'm not exactly living like a queen. Furthermore, I know plenty of teachers who make far, far less than I do to perform the same job, perhaps even a harder one. Also, while I know firsthand that I have a difficult job, I lay no claim to my job being any more stressful or time consuming or unpleasant than anyone else in the working world (except maybe dolphin trainers. I mean, that is a sweet deal right there.)
So, when did this nation decide, amongst all its many economic ills and struggles, that teachers were the greedy, ungrateful, lazy bottom feeders behind it all? Yes, the wave of teacher strikes in recent months seems like an understandable reason to begrudge teachers if one does not know what they are fighting for, but these strikes have not been the catalyst, rather the backlash to the nation's finger pointing.
I don't need to have people lauding me for my career choice, and I don't need my name or the teaching profession in big bright lights. But I also make an effort not to roll my eyes and baulk when someone else shares with me their line of work, and I would expect the same from other strangers I happen to meet.
Please be kind to your local teachers, everyone. It's very likely they've already plenty of abuse from an ill behaved child or two that day while simply trying to help and care for him. They don't need another dose of ungrateful and disrespectful whining.