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View Diary: A political issue -- teacher pay (255 comments)

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  •  Teaching Conditions and Tommy the Tooth (none)
    Education has come a long way since my 4G grandmother and 5G grandfather had to board out with various neighbors during the year in order to be able to live. And of course, when they married, which was a bit difficult, since they were forbidden to "associate" except for church attendance, they had to quit teaching!

    No question teachers arouse ire in the public - even among progressives, as the negative responses above surely show. Many people think, likely from their own experiences as students, that they know what teaching requires and demands of teachers. No, they probably don't.

    There are many teachers who are deadwood, and I wonder when they began dying - before or after they started teaching? I've taught with some in the process of dying, and I've seen some really good ones burnout. This sort of burnout is common in any occupation where you have low power, little ability to influence decisions, low status, and inflexible and worsening working conditions. I know a legal services attorney who is in much the same condition. The Beast is Starved and in its death throes.

    I'm one of those "left the classroom after only a few years" people (though I teach college students now), because I did not want to burn out.  I loved teaching, but the lack of freedom was toxic. Like almost every district in the part of the county where I lived (and indeed in most parts of the country), we were not unionized. As the schools often chose administrators from the leadership of the teachers' organizations, there was, to say the least, little likelihood of a union being formed.

    Children were allowed in my classroom starting at 8am, but we could not teach them "any substantive content" until 8:35am. At 8:35 they left for 15 minutes of gym. This was the "planning period" for the day. For the rest of the day, we were not to leave them for any purpose whatsoever. If we needed to go to the bathroom, for example, we were instructed to take them with us(!).

    There were so many intrusions on time:  The local dental auxiliary visited, along with Tony the Tooth(one of our congressional reps was a dentist). They left me with a tooth brush and toothpaste tube for each student (all 38), and a directive to have my students brush their teeth twice daily under my direct supervision.  Gee, I wondered aloud, what part of the state test will this activity cover? We did this exactly two days, while I timed how long it took.  One sink. 38 kids, 38 toothpaste tubes, 38 brushes, no glasses or cups. Yes, a great use of instructional time. At least I wasn't in Tom DeLay's district. We probably would have been told to spray for roaches daily.  

    I was paid slightly more than $19,000 in today's dollars. There was a dress code, and a morals clause in my contract, broadly defined. For example, in my second year a teacher was fired for saying DAMN out loud when a fire drill bell rang in the middle of her mid-term exams. Teacher pay has increased modestly in this district since I left - the Texas state minimum is $24,910, and my old district adds about 3,000 to that.  

    I would like to see politicians who criticize public education spend a full week alone in charge of a classroom - and I don't mean a tiny class of hand-selected  seniors in their states' most affluent suburban school (not that those kids would always be easy, either). I'd even let them do it without the toothbrushes.

    •  oh my (none)
      If you don't mind my curiousity, what district did you teach in?
      •  I wish. . . (none)
        However, I have a good friend who works there who strongly prefers that I keep the name to myself. I'll say that it is in East Texas, in oil-time oil country. It is not a big place. If I have occasion to meet you in person, I'll happily confess.
        •  Piney Woods - say. no. more. (none)
          Why all mah relatives live out in them deep piney woods! I got just buckets o' cousins.

          One of my uncles (mom's side) decided to move from Palestine/Rusk "to the city" down south to work for Dow Chemical in Freeport/Lake Jackson. My mom was 8 yrs. old when they moved from the with my uncle's fam. They were farmers. My great-grandpa (dad's side) moved from Lufkin and ran the general feed store in Clute. We used to have both family reunions in East Texas, so I have fond memories of riding the train, eating homemade ice cream, and getting dirt from head to toe.

          To his dying day my uncle farmed 40 acres of watermelons, 'maters, canteloupes and squash no matter where he lived. He had those huuuuuge farmer's hands. Could poke a stick in the ground and it'd have fruit on it the next day.

          I love East Texas -- but only to visit. Those tall pine trees start freakin' me out after awhile. And lordy, what a nice long visit does to my cultivated academic accent! I would go nuts if I had to live there.

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